. . . about Destiny Manifested . . .
“Doorbell rings. It is the apple tree” writes Bonnie Larson Staiger in this beautiful debut of her poetry in Destiny Manifested. As I opened the doors of this book on the poem called “Tom’s Tractor,” I couldn’t help but love the reinvention of the pastoral — detailed, well-tuned, humorous, and lyrical. I couldn’t help but love the way Bonnie Larson Staiger remakes the old mode into something fresh and convincing. I loved the subtle, deft craft in such short space and, as I kept reading, I loved the poems such as “Homestead to Hospital” where the human portraiture is opened up to us via carefully sculpted imagery and vigorous, memorable tonalities. The end-result is a kind of human voice that is remembered well after the page turns. It is a remarkable thing, this ability to capture a human voice in a lyric form; Bonnie Larson Staiger does it beautifully.
~Ilya Kaminsky, award-winning poet and author of Deaf Republic and Dancing In Odessa
Destiny Manifested manifests the often-overlooked landscape of North Dakota in language that shifts deftly between humor and grief, nostalgia and renewal, formal and free verse. Much like the myriad weathers that Staiger catalogs, where “snowflakes scatter / like chicken feathers” and “children and gardens grow up overnight,” these poems are prismatic in their ability to condense, but not simplify, life on the prairie. Expansive, full of grace and wit, meditation and mourning, Staiger’s poetry accomplishes the difficult task of rendering a true portrait of her home, leaving in the grit alongside the sunflowers, the grime beside the larkspurs.
~Amie Whittemore, author of Glass Harvest
A sense of place defines this book. Bonnie Larson Staiger reminds us that history is the lived experience of people in a distinct place, in this case western North Dakota. This is a distinct place, ignored by most Americans, where weather matters and as Staiger reminds us, the cycle of seasons mirrors the cycles of human life.
~Kathleen Norris, author of, among numerous others, Dakota: a Spiritual Geography
Bonnie Larson Staiger’s poetry speaks the prairies of today and echoes the prairies of memory – the beauty and starkness of the land, the tenacity of its people who are sometimes simply too stubborn to die, the seasonal changes as they chronicle the years. The poems detail an environment, both nourishing and harsh, that strengthens the prairie dweller, wherever life takes her.
~Carol Kapsner, North Dakota Supreme Court Justice, 1998-2017
A compassionate innate spirit moves through this award-winning collection by Bonnie Larson Staiger. The setting is North Dakota and the Great Plains. Even if you have never been there, these finely crafted poems create a world we all inhabit. Each possess a Whitmanesque expansive embrace that is deeply human and passionate as they blend into a unified narrative. There are brief historical examinations of the past that need to be explored in order to move forward and there is a harshness found on the land that always blooms in the end with intense beauty. It is a land where the poet lives and we as readers are richer for it.
~Kevin Pilkington, author of Where You Want to Be: New and Selected Poems
What I admire in Bonnie Larson Staiger’s, DESTINY MANIFESTED, is how she interweaves the story of a family, beginning with her Great Grandfather, a crusty homesteader, with the broader strokes of American history. Her connection to the land is palpable, “Given the choice I would walk every/measured mile of the contoured prairie /take up a handful of earth knowing/ it’s time to plant by the smell of the soil.” Told with well-chosen detail, whatever subject Staiger touches—racism past and present, the joy of dandelions after a long winter, shooting a gopher, a neighbor’s old rusted tractor—comes into plain and vivid sight.
~Sally Bliumis-Dunn, ECHOLOCATION, Plume Editions/MadHat Press, 2018
Bonnie Larson Staiger’s collection, Destiny Manifested, is testament to the adage that universal truths are grounded in the particular. As a poet who knows her history, she pays tribute to the rugged landscapes and the tenacious people of the High Plains, making them fully human and fully alive, and, thus, universal. But her poems take us other places, too—like Boston and San Francisco’s Chinatown, to reemphasize universality across geography, histories, and cultures through a voice that not only understands this, but lives it, feels it—lets us do the same.
~Richard Blanco, Presidential Inaugural Poet, and author of Looking for the Gulf Motel