A Silence Opens (Magill's Literary Annual 1991-2005)
In a 1987 American Poetry Review interview, conducted by Laura Fairchild, Amy Clampitt spoke of her religious background. Having grown up Quaker and later converted to the Episcopalian faith, Clampitt confessed that she was no longer a churchgoer and did not know what she believed, except that “there’s everything to believe.” A Silence Opens, Clampitt’s fifth book of poetry, reveals the poet to be a keenly curious observer of the impulse to faith found in such passionate religious leaders as Joseph Smith and George Fox. It is not so clear what Clampitt herself believes. All experience captures her interest. Her themes in A Silence Opens are large ones: the mystery of nature and history and the ineffable in human experience. Yet Clampitt remains the cataloger, the witness, if not faithful believer, of the silence labeled by many as
and “the infinite/ love of God.”
Arranged in four parts with seven poems in each, A Silence Opens is a carefully structured work that places Clampitt in a chorus of great American poets who have explored similar themes, most notably Walt Whitman, whose presence hovers in several of the poems in this collection. Emily Dickinson, Hart Crane, John Keats, and the Greek Homer provide impulses also, but Whitman seems an abiding presence. In “Paumanok,” the Indian name for Long Island, Clampitt...
(The entire section is 1950 words.)
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