Born and raised in desert towns hundreds of miles apart, Laura Maher and L.I. Henley found each other through poetry. Ordinary Light traces a correspondence of the growing connections of two strangers, uncovering a shared archeological dig of lost loves, regrets, questions, and other half-buried artifacts of memory. Place, both geological and historical, are at the center of these poems, as are concerns about illness, climate change, gender-based violence, and political unrest.
In their collaborative correspondence Ordinary Light, the boundaries between individual artists L.I. Henley and Laura Maher blend and blur. A reader can happily get lost in this collection of quotidian yet luminous moments woven as a conversation between poets. These pieces are watery yet desert-steeped. They share language and memory and investigate the naming of things. The book also speaks of bodies in pain and illness, wrought with truth and beauty—the weight of bodies, the humanity of bodies, the femininity of bodies—and bodies are imagined untethered from their physical strictures, buoyant as they swim through these pages with strong strokes. I feel reverent toward these poems of fire, animals, bones, blue, time, rivers, love, questions, moons, women, fear, and friendship. One poet asks, “What do you make of all these miracles?” Much like a snakeskin is coined at one point in its pages, Ordinary Light embodies “cathedralness”—an open space shed by its makers, where we can wonder and wander, admiring how the light gets in.
—Rebecca Hart Olander, author of Uncertain Acrobats and editor/director of Perugia Press
What is a poem if not tension and beauty against an edge? What is a collection if not proximity and distance, edges fit like the earth’s shifting plates? And in an instant, collision, quakes, a mountain, or perhaps nothing on the surface for a very long time. Ordinary Light is an extraordinary chapbook grounded in this motion—the dynamism of a planet upon which two writers trace (no, confront) the boundaries. Insistently, these poems push upon the where, when, and why of endings. At what point the body, the illness, at what point does the desert, the country, the loveache, the memory, the caretaking, the leavetaking, when does it stop? I do not stop where you begin. And from whence such direct and redemptive light? It’s here inside this book. So bright it could restructure you, deep down and all at once.
—Rachel Mindell, author of May/be