Poems by Annie Boutelle



One Way to Varanasi

Basket of Fruit

(available as a broadside,

see text and links below)


With astonishing ease, Annie Boutelle’s poems manage to be elegant, fierce, gorgeous, and spare—all at once. Her two books of poems, both published in 2005, quietly offer entry into other lives, other languages, and their quietness belies the depth of feeling that rises up as we look at the world through her clear-eyed gaze.


Becoming Bone (Arkansas University Press) seeks to recover the inner life of Celia Thaxter, one of nineteenth-century America’s most popular poets. "Like whaler's scrimshaw, images incised on shell and bone, Boutelle’s lines seem etched, indelible,” writes Eleanor Wilner. “In a language as spare, exact, and essential as necessity itself , [she] tears aside the flowery veils of feminine concealment of another age, to give voice to the inner life of an islanded soul.” Gerald Stern, former Poet Laureate of New Jersey, has dubbed the book “a magnificent secret history.”

In Nest of Thistles, winner of the 2005 Samuel French Morse Poetry Prize, and in part an autobiographical exploration of her childhood in Scotland, Boutelle applies a similarly fierce intensity to the recovery of her own life and language. With patient care, she maps the borders of unrecoverable loss and unbounded joy. Nuala Ní Dhomhnaill admired the book’s “powerful resonance, a quivering presence like a Highland landscape seen through a summer heat haze.” Writes Henri Cole, "Annie Boutelle's poems are muscular and clean. She writes with her ear. And though death often clings to the edges of them, it unexpectedly breathes life into the surface of things. If you listen, you can hear a heart’s quiet roar."

Born and raised in Scotland, Boutelle was educated at the University of St. Andrews and New York University. She is the author of Thistle And Rose: A Study Of Hugh Macdiarmid's Poetry and numerous essays on scholarly and popular topics, and her poems have appeared widely in journals, including the Georgia Review, Green Mountains Review, the Hudson Review, Nimrod, and Poetry. Boutelle, who lives with her husband in western Massachusetts, is the founder and guiding light of the Poetry Center.

A member of the English Department since 1984, she heeded Ruth Simmons’s 1996 call to “dream big dreams,” envisioning a program to bring an ongoing stream of distinguished poets to Smith. Faculty, students, and alumnae responded enthusiastically, and thus the Poetry Center was born. As chair of the Poetry Center Committee, Annie continues to guide the center’s efforts to secure full and stable funding and to develop an outreach program.



Basket of Fruit


oil on canvas 31 x 47 cm. 1599

Milan, Ambrosiana, Pinacoteca



Some battered leaves, a simple woven basket

overflowing with figs, red and black grapes,

two pears, an apple, a peach. And everywhere

that longing to survive, to thrive, as a thin

and desperate stem rises to the right and lifts

off beyond the frame. Praise the luscious, touch

your hand to apple's worm hole. Everything

earnest, grapes jostling each other, nothing

on its own, but each one lonely. All that space

and air in a background that haloes the lost,

the soon to be not. Water drops spill like tears

down the leaves—and what is dream, what waking?



(Hedgerow Books, 2012)




      Poetry Center Reading:  
    Fall 2005, Spring 2012