As internal as they are universal, these poems are paratactic explorations into the connectivity of all things: the images and narrative fragments evoked by Old Irish runes; the false vacuum of quantum field theory; the color charts of Gerhard Richter; the caddisworm hiding until its wings have formed. . . . This is an extraordinarily rich and linguistically playful concoction.
H. L. Hix:
In the middle of Karen Donovan’s new book, the speaker in one poem notes ‘How I desired a torch and you gave me / a candle saying this is all you need.’ That moment hints at the mystery and marvel of this work: it is not a torch, overwhelming the organs and the intended objects of sight, but a candle, perfecting sight by highlighting its objects and honing its organs. Your Enzymes Are Calling the Ancients is all you need to see more clearly than before.
Fugitive Red (1999)
Winner of the Juniper Prize for Poetry
University of Massachusetts Press
Rain Taxi Review of Books:
Borrowing from the vernacular of science, but distilling her language into cadences and shapes familiar to a quotidian tongue, Donovan’s poems are accessible yet deftly layered inklings into the peculiar narrative of exile.
Visual discoveries abound in these poems. Objects of interest come into focus, blur, vanish, and bloom back into clarity or transform into other resonant objects. Endowed with the curiosity of a child, Donovan marvels at found coins and lost stars, scraps of conversation, even a jar of pickled eggs at the grocery store. Her restlessness and curiosity make travel a necessity rather than an indulgence, and she never treks to the same place twice.
The Hollins Critic:
Poet Karen Donovan is an explorer of a strange new land, most remarkably, one which lies in our own backyard. She is a scientist-navigator of words, searching both distant ports and crumbling main streets, furiously scribbling the most intimate details of the world through which she sails.