Water Becomes Bone
The poems of C. Mikal Oness fade in as if they have been speaking all along in the background in a frequency or volume lost to the human ear until their patience runs out and they enter, reverberating, sleek and insistent. With incantatory lines that are addressed more to the self than to an outward entity, Oness calls to mind Stevens’ idea of the ultimate good––to believe in fictions while knowing they are fictions, to find real bliss only in what is infinitely deferred. There is a tension between what we settle for and what we try to squeeze out of fortune; whether we “keep moving for air” or “chant and kick powder,” the results are all we have, and we do not know enough about certainty to deem them fate or divination. This is a book that searches for that certainty through reversal, and the practice of Water Becomes Bone is to pan for its gospel by yielding to contrast, sifting the bright stones in the mix.
“The spare, elegant poems in Water Becomes Bone confront with unusual clarity the joys and the anguish of living with others. The contradictions of this considered life––a son’s affections and a son’s rage, the bones moving gracefully under a child’s skin and the bones of another child resting under the earth––are considered with honesty and with a wrenching beauty. These contradictions are sometimes resolved, sometimes not, but each is confronted with wonder, reverence and awe. Oness is a fisherman, and there are poems in this collection that will have anglers pulling on their waders. This book is like a clear pool you can cast into again and again; every poem is a keeper.”
“At times dreamlike, at times sharply rendered, as lapidarian as precious gems, these haunting poems by C. Mikal Oness resound with deft subtleties, fine wit, and striking imagery. In them, Oness confronts our collective desires and fears, our human quandaries, as he delves into the essence of both mundane and cosmic mysteries. Along the way, he explores longing, impermanence, the fragility of our human comforts, the elusiveness of art, and the transmutations that occur between nature and being, death and transcendence. Oness’s poems echo the succinct and tantalizing conundrums of Anglo-Saxon riddles, the soul’s yearning of Rumi, and the word-playing delight of Gertrude Stein. These poems are small treasures––rich in nuance and song, emotionally complex, resonant and lasting.”
C. Mikal Oness
C. Mikal Oness is a graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop and the University of Missouri. His work has appeared in The Iowa Review, Shenandoah, The Colorado Review, The Bloomsbury Review, Cutbank, and elsewhere. Among his awards are the Academy of American Poets Prize, the Mahan Poetry Prize, and the Mary Roberts Rinehart Award from George Mason University. He has a limited edition chapbook, Impossible Fires, from Aureole Press, another, Runian, from Bergamot Press, and a collection of poetry, Husks, from Brandenburg Press. He is the founding editor of Sutton Hoo Press, and currently teaches creative writing, world literature, and studies in the book at the University of Wisconsin in LaCrosse.