“There is courtship, and there is hunger”: Mary Szybist’s “In Tennessee I Found a Firefly”

IncarnadineA couple weeks ago, I reviewed Mary Szybist’s new collection, Incarnadine, which won the Pulitzer Prize for poetry last year. This week’s poem, “In Tennessee I Found a Firefly” is from her first collection, Granted (2003).

I was hooked on this poem from the first two lines. The first sentence assumes the “firefly” of the poem’s title as its subject, retaining the punch of the initial verb: “Flashing in the grass; the mouth of a spider clung / to the dark of it” (1-2).  I love the phrasing of “the dark of it,” suggesting both the transitory darkness of the insect’s flickering light and also the permanently dark portions of its body, with a suggestion of private, dark spaces.

The co-incidence of hunger and desire, violence and beauty appears in Incarnadine, too, but I like this poem’s particular study of the minute, physical world, “the burr and the barb of them.”

You can read the full poem here.



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