The title poem—about a group of schoolchildren illustrating Shelley's "Ode to a Skylark"—ends with the following assertion: "these are the only / lessons they will ever need to learn: that life / is not artifact, but aperture—a stepping into / and a falling away; that to sing is to rise / from the grave of the body. And still / say less than nothing."
This idea of the aperture, the gap, the silence that exists between what we want to say and what we actually do say pervades The Curator of Silence. The paradox, of course, is that the creation of art itself makes this gap, as there is always a gulf between the impulse and the gesture, the vision and the poem.
Nutter's experience of living for two months in the Antarctic, perhaps the greatest silence and solitude possible on earth, is the archetype of silence whose many dimensions she explores in this volume. She considers both literal, obvious silences—death, abandonment, loneliness, the silence into which lost things vanish—and silences of a more mysterious and paradoxical nature: the (mis)perceptions of childhood, the erasures of addiction and brain damage, the isolation of Antarctic explorers, and the seemingly distant, and often fearsome, lives of animals.
In the end, this great silence we batter our hearts against—call it the grave or god or the universe or the intimate silence of the white page—is the silence these poems are singing to and with, not against.
"The Curator of Silence is a wonderful book, both generous and challenging. From the very first page, Jude Nutter asks the reader to join with her in an exploration that curates not only silence but the many varieties of human experience that enliven, threaten, and sometimes deepen that silence. Her poems are imaginative, and their music always feels authentic, as if born from far inside the poem. The voice of the poems speaks from intimacy and demands intimacy from the reader in return. If those poems are sometimes harrowing, they are also redeeming, and leave us strangely renewed. I envy those who have the pleasure of reading her book for the first time." —Jim Moore, author of Lightning at Dinner: Poems
"These astonishing poems take my breath away with their beauty and deeply held knowledge. Not only are they wedded to the earth as they emerge from the poet's personal mythology, but—like a shawl thrown over the shoulders—they give comfort as they explore the fragile balance between life and death, gain and loss. Here is a poet who speaks subtle truths; I know I'll want to return to her poems again and again." —Judith Minty