How to Say
by Stephanie A. Marcellus
This collection of how-to poems offers the words to help us find our way in life, to navigate through difficult times, to cope with grief, and to celebrate the beauty and strangeness of the world around us. In How to Say, Stephanie Marcellus gives us a poetic instruction manual for everything from picking mulberries, saying I love you, to living with ghosts. These poems apply the language of direction—with its imperatives and step-by-step guidelines—to life’s experiences and emotions and offer insight in a unique poetic manner. Themes include the transformative power of nature, the importance of memories, and how writing helps us preserve cherished experiences, as well as heal our wounds.
Early Praise for How to Say:
In How to Say, Stephanie Marcellus gives us guidelines on how to cope with loss, express our love, and experience life, including appreciating the natural world and our near and far surroundings. Several poems make extraordinary use of metaphor: A knife to help sharpen our words; paint to learn how to live with discipline (The painter said, you need to learn/ something about technique/ about how to avoid/ the messes you’re always getting yourself into); and how to live with ghosts (I open my mouth/ and my mother comes out/ more and more each year.) The poem “How to Go to Church on a Sunday Morning” is a walk in the woods and on the prairie, taking into the body native grasses, leaves, wild fruit, wildflowers, and bittersweet. What could be better?
—Twyla M. Hansen, Nebraska State Poet (2013-2018) and author of Feeding the Fire
Stephanie Marcellus’ How to Say is put together like the instruction manual we need, one for life as a partner, as someone living in a house, a child of parents and grandparents, as someone just trying to get through the winter. With titles like “How to Water the Yard,” “How to Let Go,” “How to Live with Ghosts” and more, Marcellus gives us poems which start from the ordinary, grounded place of each title and take us to somewhere unexpected. You’ll find yourself laughing at really funny bits from “How to Leave Yellowstone” then, in the next poem (“How to Speak to the Dead”), want to sit a little bit with lines like Reach your hand out into the darkness./ Let your fingers clasp the open air/ and don’t let go. My own “How to” would have you set yourself into a comfortable chair, open to page 1, and enjoy.
—Matt Mason, Nebraska State Poet and author of Rock Stars
About the Author
Stephanie A. Marcellus is a professor of English at Wayne State College. She holds an MFA in Creative Writing from Colorado State University and a PhD in Nineteenth-Century British Literature from The University of South Dakota. Her work has appeared in Plainsongs, Three Drops from a Cauldron, Alligator Juniper as well as two other chapbooks, All That I Thought Was Light and What Is Left Behind: Garden Elegies. She lives in Wayne, Nebraska with her husband, two cats, and dog. She enjoys spending time on the family farm, being out in nature, and finding time to read in her hammock.