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Often Fanged Light


Often Fanged Light is a collection of poems reflecting the joys and horrors of the natural world; it memorializes lives early ruined and lives lost, excoriates social and environmental injustices, and more than hints at the poet’s complicity in this “dome of many-colour’d glass.” From the personal standpoint, Often Fanged Light delineates the poet’s journey from the heartland of the industrial Midwest to a small town on the southeast coast of Massachusetts, and her divorce from an engaged working life to one of contemplation, devotion to the arts, and advocacy.

Praise for Often Fanged Light

“Nature assumes a voice in Often Fanged Light, the most recent poetry collection by Anca Vlasopolos, who has turned her eye once again to the landscape and the many ways it intrigues and awes while summoning us to be better stewards. Birds are ‘flaming acrobats’ that ‘glide on fringed hems,’ trees wave ‘flame-colored handkerchiefs,’ a seed poises ‘like a ballerina on one pointed shoe before its leap to spring,’ and hummingbirds are ‘jewels shot into southern space.’

There is reverence for the environment in these works that link the passion of the Romantic poet with the activism of the ecopoet, offering up meditations on the sublime in nature while speaking to the ecological anxieties of our times. Vlasopolos, with the finely tuned perception of both a field scientist and a seer, records images and events that we might easily overlook, and in this focus on what might otherwise be lost she ignites reflection and inspiration. Often Fanged Light is part bestiary in its vivid chronicle of winged and terrestrial creatures, part eulogy for their lost and despoiled worlds, and part entreaty to the better nature in us all. 

— Dorene O’Brien, award-winning author of Voices of the Lost and Found


Anca Vlasopolos’ Often Fanged Light renders nature through the burning laser lens of a woman who is yet that immigrant from the European displacement camps, coming to America and discovering again in New England’s seasonal rawness the fierce will to beauty, to cruel loss and survival, to a core of human wisdom that true naturalists learn and instruct. This collection is an outburst of nature poems for the 21st century, particular and laconic by turn, funny yet biting and bitter in humor, its figures of speech stunningly vivid and new, befitting its capture of New England’s flora and fauna as displays of Nature in its original facticity.

— Shirley Geok-lin Lim, author of Among the White Moon Faces (American Book Award), and recipient of the Commonwealth Poetry Prize and MELUS Lifetime Achievement Award.


If there was such a thing as synesthesia between human sensibility, consciousness and nature, I would use it to describe Anca Vlasopolos’ new volume of poetry, Often Fanged Light. It is more than symbolism or metaphor, but it is not euterria defined by Glenn Albrecht as the “good and positive feeling of oneness with the earth and its life forces.” It is a much rawer sense that one’s life is affected by the changes—both harsh and gentle—taking place in the natural world around us, and that one’s life course runs parallel to the cycles of day and night and of the seasons.  Nature is and life is part of it. The poet’s alert eye and attentive ear have captured the sights and sounds of birds and tides and breezes and be moved by them, as if her sense experience could not be separated from them, as the processes of loss, of grieving, of aging, are mirrored in the always changing natural world.

The subjects of the poems fall into various groupings: seasons, aging, grieving, the ocean, birds, humanity. One theme often blends seamlessly into another:

what shall I say
spotted- and striped-chested birds
as they return
to what they’ve known as haven for millenia
now three backyards’ worth
look now only two
soon to be only one

inevitably as I leave for my own haunting

There are poems for seasons, poems for different months, celebrating the colors of fall,

…gentle weather
trees still waving
flame-colored handkerchiefs
in their farewell to summer

and the promise of spring:

yet look
 at buds
 up close

only a week ago
shut fast like banker’s fist

to suckle

Much of the weather is dark, or brutal, many of the recollections are ones of loss, of confrontations with aging. Several address social issues, such as race, “He’s young and black and carrying bags/of dirt manure chips sand to open/trunks,” or refugees,  “forced [us] to uncitizen ourselves loosed us—/penniless/with a stamped beggar’s sheet of paper—on/an unwilling world.” Whatever the subject, there is usually an analogy with nature, and no matter what, even the most brutal manage to be beautiful.

This is a wonderful collection of poems. I read it breathlessly, all in one sitting, finding myself amazed with each turn of the page. I think this may be the poet’s best work.

— Casey Dorman, novelist, essayist, former publisher of Avignon Press

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