cover image The Avalanche Path in Summer

The Avalanche Path in Summer

Susan Tichy. Ahsahta, $18 (128p) ISBN 978-1-934103-85-2

In her third collection, Tichy (Trafficke) offers an homage to both the literature of mountaineering and the poet’s beloved Colorado Sange de Cristo Mountains: “the ‘perfectly transparent story’/ of a fault-block uplift range, two to three miles/ above sea-level.” Analogies and dialectical relations between hiking and reading or writing accrete. “For a mountain can take you// Out of yourself, or in,” as both exterior and interior realms (“Which is self/ Which is world,”) disclose the histories of their making and their delineation. The book’s signature rhetorical device is the switchback: “devote the day to surviving the mountain/ (that’s meant to say surveying, sorry).” The poet juxtaposes her own phrases and narratives alongside fragments from British sources such as John Ruskin, Nan Shepherd, and Robert Macfarlane, and lines of Chinese poetry in the Daoist and Buddhist traditions. While its syncretism may recall Gary Snyder, this book privileges body over text, “One foot/ in front of the other foot, crossing the force// of stunted bristlecone.” The poem functions as a seismograph, as if both the terrain and the human body that scrabbles over its surfaces and missteps occasionally (“Palm-path-pain/ step-stop-stipple,”) are as fragile and as contingent as the pages we hold in our hands, “memorizing the slope like a book I know/ will burn.” (Jan.)