Pauline Stainer is a poet ‘working at the margins of the sacred’, conveying sensations ‘with an economy of means that is breathtaking…her poems are not merely artefacts, they have an organic life of their own’ (John Burnside). Crossing the Snowline charts her return to life after numbing grief. These luminous poems are a testament of recovery, renewal and redemption.
Pauline Stainer writes: ‘I think this collection, varied as it is, is primarily the record of my journey out of long fallow after the death of my daughter. It’s not confessional, but explores obliquely the nature of that fallow, and the necessity of living by light even in darkness. Many things inform the poems: my learning to paint (‘the swirling oxides’), light on landscape in different places, Suffolk, Orkney, India, Japan, the Azores… For a time, grief took away the magical currency of the word – a strange experience for a poet. I had to wait with the patience of one of those pack animals from the salt desert, for an upbeat – the pressure of sap in sunlight on ground of vermilion. And yes, the light is different. Its afterlight. But I’m still driven to catch in words the stars and their electric circus, and to write in praise of flying squirrels.’
‘Over the past 20 years, Pauline Stainer has all but perfected the art of illumination without demystification, in search of what she calls “the divining shiver”, a phrase that can only gesture towards the combination of physical immediacy and numinous wonder that her marvellous poems possess… Stroke by stroke, apprehension by apprehension, Stainer is building a unique and extraordinary body of work’ – Frances Leviston, Guardian.
‘Her territory is predominantly that of legend: its symbols and its creatures – the unicorn, the falcon, the serpent – but she often draws them into a contemporary setting where they neither shed power nor lose meaning. Her purpose is not so much to import the ancient world into the modern as to demonstrate that those worlds are of a piece: that old rituals still obtain, that old beliefs still govern instinct’ – David Harsent, PBS Bulletin.
‘Pauline Stainer writes sacred poetry for the scientific twenty-first century. Her poetry preserves a surety of vision, insisting that belief can only increase with knowledge, and that wisdom and faith are still provinces of careful, crystalline language. She is deeply English and draws from a wealth of sources: medieval lyrics, Eastern as well as Western art, Christian liturgy, and an impressive familiarity with chemistry and optics’ – Anne Stevenson
‘She sites her poetry smack on the veering demarcation between metaphysics and science… [recognising] that perceptual precision and intelligent enquiry can live alongside passion, compassion and fascination with language’ – David Morley, Guardian.
‘Pauline Stainer is one of those few, electrifying poets who truly, strangely, change our perceptions’ – Vuyelwa Carlin, Poetry Wales.
‘So authentic an imaginative utterance as to have about it the inevitability of true art’ – John Lucas, New Statesman.