Ruins of Nostalgia

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Browsing David Orr’s list of “Best Poetry of 2018” I came across the poet Donna Stonecipher, whom I had never heard of. And naturally I decided to check her up — this is what I found (or at least some of it…).

Happy reading!

The Ruins of Nostalgia 1

In the fall we were nostalgic for the summer. In the winter we were nostalgic for the fall. In the summer we were nostalgic for the spring. But in the spring we were not nostalgic for the winter, not even for its quiet, or its hot cocoas, or its video fires, though we did ask our father from time to time to tell us about how, when he was a child, the man-made lake in the middle of our city froze over every winter, and how one December day he broke through the ice and was only saved from drowning by a neighbor boy whose name he can no longer remember. We were nostalgic for the frozen lake we had never seen, that is, for the lake we had never seen frozen, the man-made lake we had swum in during the summers after the lake froze. It was hard to imagine the summer lake frozen. It was hard to imagine the winter lake summery. It was hard to imagine the lake being made, and not just spontaneously welling up its murky green effluence. We were nostalgic for winters that had descended before we were sentient, as if those winters existed in snow globes we could stow on our nightstands and dream of falling and falling through the ice we are always rescued from by neighbors who become strangers over time. The lake is always melting in the ruins of nostalgia.

DThe Ruins of Nostalgia 20

The Ruins of Nostalgia 42

We were nostalgic for the time when the pointillist paintings had looked like autumnal birch trees, rather than for the time when the autumnal birch trees had looked like pointillist paintings. We were nostalgic for the certainty that the bird we heard singing sweetly in the suburban forest was a recording, rather than being certain that what we thought was a recording was actually a bird. We were nostalgic for the care that had gone into the realism of the polyester lilies we had placed our foolish noses in, spoiling for perfume. We were nostalgic for foolishness, because it meant wisdom might matter. We were nostalgic for fakery, because it meant realness might matter. We were nostalgic for trompe l’oeil, for fool’s gold, for crocodile tears, for Mercator globes, for mimeographs, for velveteen, for signifiers unmoored from signifieds. We were nostalgic for the hand-painted cracks in the artificial marble in the ruins of nostalgia.


Donna Stonecipher grew up in Seattle and Teheran. She is the author of five books of poetry, most recently Transaction Histories (2018). Her third book, The Cosmopolitan, won the 2007 National Poetry Series. Stonecipher has been the recipient of numerous grants and fellowships, including residencies at Yaddo and Djerassi. Her poems have been published in many journals, including The Paris Review, and both Model Cityand The Cosmopolitan were translated into Spanish. Her prose book Prose Poetry and the Citywas recently published by Parlor Press. She translates from French and German, and is currently working on a translation of Friederike Mayröcker’s études, for which she won a 2015 Translation Grant from the National Endowment for the Arts.
Donna Stonecipher lives in Berlin, where she works as a writer and translator.

The Ruins of Nostalgia, consists of more than 65 prose poems and does not yet have a publisher.

One Comment Add yours

  1. bluebrightly says:

    Thank you – wonderful prose from a poetic mind. I haven’t heard of her either, and can’t help thinking that growing up in Seattle & Tehran would be a rich experience.

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