Review of Many Parishes by Adrian Gibbons Koesters

Many Parishes by Adrian Gibbons Koesters

BrickHouse Books, 2013

Hard, dense, sometimes frightening, Koesters’ collection leaves me in awe of her ability and fearlessness.  While we were at Rainier Writing Workshop (Pacific Lutheran University) together, I saw her quick mind, sense of humor, and obvious skills.  I had no idea of the depth of her experience. 

Many Parishes opens another door. Rather like the music of Shostakovich, Koesters reveals the sudden world of pain and inhuman selfishness.  In “Sonnet for SoWeBo,” she horrifies through implication and, clearly, memory—

and she shrinks from the men who crawl along the back gates

to beckon: “Come on down, sweetheart, I got something

over here to show you,”

Here’s that same, nearly off-hand bravery, off-the-wall sense of humor and anguish in “A Nun Considers that the Righteous Hold Up the Corners of the Earth”:

…I used to scream at the

television set in the parlor, the sisters puzzled I should care

for the evening news but honoring me for my charming impotence.

Then they sent me back to bed, where I have been for a while.

The poems are brilliant, dense, hard, except that throughout her parishes–from “Parochial” to “The Nuns Who Never Existed” to “Many Parishes”–she also writes of the dangerous, vulnerable lightning of hope. Koesters opens “In Another Winter” with–

We take this child we call belief, stand

it up against the darker children,

make it behave in rounder consonants,

as if there were soft ways

to see into the sky.

She leaves us with the possibility of “soft ways”—or at least the implication that there is such a thing as a soft way to see the sky.

–Judith Shadford

Adrian Gibbons Koesters holds an MFA in poetry from the Rainier Writing Workshop at Pacific Lutheran University, and a Ph.D. in fiction and poetry from the University of Nebraska, Lincoln. Her work has appeared in The Gettysburg ReviewHotel AmerikaSaranac ReviewInternational Poetry ReviewCrab Creek Review, and elsewhere.  She teaches writing at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, where she is also the host of the online recorded reading series for Air Schooner, and she is a fiction editor for A River and Sound Review.

After a career in marketing and public relations in New York City and Santa Barbara, California, Judith Shadford moved to the Northwest to focus on her writing. She received an MFA in Creative Writing from the Rainier Writing Workshop of Pacific Lutheran University of Tacoma in 2009.  Shadford is the online newsletter editor for “News from St John’s Cathedral.”  Recently she’s had essays and short stories published in journals including The Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine, Shark Reef Journal, and River and Sound Review. The weekly online religious news source, SpokaneFAVs publishes her series “Bible Backstories.”

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