Ritual in Blue by Caroline Kessler

Caroline Kessler's Ritual in Blue is a wandering meditation through the realms of desire and spirituality, in the midst of displacement. Questions of searching, separation, and selfhood permeate the poems, which are rituals in themselves. Not a prescription nor an answer to these questions, the landscape of Ritual in Blue is dotted with bodies of water, spiritual paraphernalia, and the human body.

 

Sample excerpt from “A Study of Inland Waters”

 

please be advised there is always some level of risk
       as in picking myself up from the original grass

when swimming in any water body as in saying yes
      as in please remove my people-pleasing neuroses

there is often some sunburn to let cool down, the skin
      a shell of inherited freckles and histories

please be advised time zones shift when I drift through
      them as in drawing from the well of not-knowing

the water’s progress means the same prayer on repeat

 

Caroline Kessler is a poet, editor, and community builder. Her poetry and prose has been published or is forthcoming in The McNeese Review, The Susquehanna Review, Sundog Lit, Profane, Rivet, Superstition Review, among others. She is the co-creator of The 18 Somethings Project, a virtual writing adventure. She has taught at the Yiddish Book Center and Washington University in St. Louis, where she earned an MFA in Creative Writing. Originally from outside Baltimore, she is living in Jaffa, where she is a 2017-18 Dorot Fellow in Israel and at work on a collection of lyric essays, The Geography Problem.

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Caroline Kessler’s cycle Ritual in Blue embraces a lush intelligence—not just the speaker’s, but also the world’s, to which this speaker responds in like register. These are lyrics of sensual philosophy, piercing perception with apprehension without ever sacrificing either body or mind. What does healing mean, or balance, these poems seem to ask, though those words are never used. These poems are citizens of “the most / developed part of the city no one / is born into.”

—G.C. Waldrep, author of Goldbeater’s Skin, Disclamor, and others

 

With subtlety and grace, Caroline Kessler celebrates a woman’s body—its endurance and relentlessness, its strength and limitations—and, above all, the innermost feelings a body holds. Is it the spirit? Is it the divine? This poet seeks answers and will travel—to ancient spaces and to Chava, that mythical first seeker. This poet understands the body won’t last forever. Kessler’s poems ask herself and, essentially, humankind, What to make of our time here? Each poem is a step toward something meaningful and maybe even righteous, “…a movement / to get closer / to what is true.”
—Yona Harvey, author of Hemming the Water

 

Ghosted with song and liturgy, the poems in Caroline Kessler’s energetic chapbook Ritual in Blue are nevertheless rooted in the body, creating potent tension between the poems’ often-intertwined spiritual and physical realms. Here, “palms press blessing[s] into my forehead;” in this chapbook, there is no benediction without touch. Kessler crafts stirring, tumbling poems that connect readers to a divinity too beautifully large for us to catch and keep for ourselves: as with moving water, held and cherished “in the scoop of my dress” only for a moment before we must let it go.

—Rachel Mennies, author of The Glad Hand of God Points Backwards, the 2014 winner of the Walt McDonald First-Book Prize in Poetry.