Clerestory by Irene Mitchell


The poems in this collection, Clerestory, are designed to capture the sentiments and subjects which come into view from a certain vantage point, the dwelling place of the mind. The poet equates that place with a particular architectural feature, the clerestory. The text, as a whole, might be considered a long poem employing all the construction materials necessary to build from the ground story to the roof or outermost point. In this delicate progression, each new floor represents a station in life. Using the element of solitude as a leitmotif, the poet examines the perks and pitfalls of that life, an existence embodying the protean spirits, light and air.


  • Kind: Perfectbound
  • Pages: 80
  • Language: English
  • Date Published: June, 2020
  • ISBN: 978-1-948017-87-9


In her new collection, Clerestory, Irene Mitchell translates complex emotional states into poetic metaphor with just enough abstraction to invite thoughtful contemplation. Her work invokes a visceral awareness of the solace inherent in grief. She creates a lens through which to bear witness to the beauty in the mundane, and examines the power of the meditative act of being present for the experience of life. “Embark with the light. Disembark same.” —Monica J. Brown

To read this collection is to be dazzled by the “perfect combination of elixirs” through which the poet explores the many preoccupations, complaints, and trepidations of her own existence, and by association, ours. It is striking how Whitmanesque in tone many of Mitchell’s poems are.  Both poets invite their soul to accompany them to unknown regions.  Both dwell on the same themes: night, stars, sleep, and fruition, which for Mitchell is presaged by “the dark mists of vigilance.” She wants to navigate these mists, this “manifest terrain”, without a suitcase “before being called back.”  Finally, just as Whitman speaks to the collective   Everyman, Mitchell does likewise: “I have always known/ how to study rarities…./ So have you done the same/during your stay.”  In her quest to challenge complacency, the poet contemplates each scene from the mind’s clerestory “where perception is edgy, vain, ancestral.”  Indeed, Mitchell’s poetic voice is at once urgent and familiar. —Carolyn Rhodes 

A clerestory gives us a particular view, a glimpse at a slide of sky that concentrates our thoughts and vision. Irene Mitchell’s poetry does the same thing, and beautifully. The reader contemplates “stealing / another bird’s eggs,” a land with “each seed a ripening grape,” or a view as memorable as the “bare sky of an invisible city.” These poems are as lush with history and intelligence as they are with language and carry a tremendous narrative power. A finely crafted collection. —Michele Parker Randall

Like petals from a rose unfurling in ambient light, these 50 poems unwind less gently, urgently leading us on a grand tour of love, hurt, regrets, that we, despite a deep breath, hesitate to embark upon alone.  Irene Mitchell, the quintessential practitioner of “less is more,” brings to the fore once again her ultimate quest of the spare, the lean, the dense. These poems must not be skimmed through. New in this latest series of perambulations and permutations is the personal: the I, the me, the you. This scrivenery, this portending what is to come in shapes revealed in smoke, water or a crystal ball, allows us to see deeply into that resonating space of heart and mind from which art emerges. —Ann Gibbons



The light burns early —
a standard rescue when rescue
is needed from November’s slow
marauding across the browning hills.
Here and there bush and bittersweet
intrude if only to flatter solitude.

There is no trend to this winding down
but what I give it, no string
to draw or loosen
before my next anticipated entry
into one more night among thousands
of a fair existence spent
minding the firmament’s business.
No buildings or lectures to endure,
only the bare sky of an invisible city.


Irene MitchellIrene Mitchell, a long-time teacher of English and Writing in inner city and rural New York, is the author of Fever (Dos Madres Press, 2019) Equal Parts Sun and Shade: An Almanac of Precarious Days (Aldrich Press, 2017), Minding the Spectrum’s Business (FutureCycle Press, 2015), A Study of Extremes in Six Suites (Cherry Grove Collections, 2012), and Sea Wind on the White Pillow (Axes Mundi Press, 2009).

Formerly Poetry Editor of Hudson River Art Magazine, Mitchell is known for her collaborations with visual artists and composers. Her poems have been presented for gallery exhibition as a series of broadsides, the text incorporated into the artwork.  Mitchell’s poetry has also been set to music for piano and voice in cycles of art-song, the marriage of music and poetry.  Her earliest correspondence with poetry scholars is included in the final year’s collection of the Aylesford Mss., archived in Indiana University’s Lilly Library. Mitchell was a 2019 Associate Artist in Residence at the Atlantic Center for the Arts

Additional information

Weight 5.6 oz
Dimensions 9 × 6 × .25 in