Illustration by Na Kim.

We at the Review are mourning the loss of our friend and advisory editor, the poet and scholar Saskia Hamilton. We recently published her poem “Faring,” part of her collection All Souls, which will be published by Graywolf Press in October; we want to share it again now, along with an introduction by Claudia Rankine. Hamilton will be dearly missed. (June 7, 2023)

To read Saskia Hamilton’s “Faring,” the opening poem in her forthcoming collection, All Souls, is to move through time in acts of seeing and of noting what is seen. The morning ticks along as light enters to illuminate both the surrounding structure, window ledge, doves—and the sounds that seep in, wind, construction. To track the light, as the season moves into longer days, is to follow the shadows of others moving here and there behind curtains across the way. The cyclical nature of dawn’s return creates illusions of certainty for future days, though the speaker in “Faring” lives within an illness that names death its cure. This does not prevent love’s negotiation with time, as a child withholds declarations of love in fear of time’s retaliatory embrace. For now, the day seems to say, Let the ordinary amaze, it’s the grace we hold.

“Faring” builds its rooms against the too-muchness of life, life’s actual, red-hot intensities, for fear that even the caring inquiry “How are you faring?” will no longer be a relevant question, or that the tracking of the gray morning sunrise will be the only relevant answer.

Like the eighteenth-century abolitionist poet William Cowper, who is called forward in “Faring” by his poem—the book open, perhaps, on the speaker’s bedside table, like table talk—Hamilton rests her sights on what can be apprehended from a bed, sofa, chair, or window, and named in the quotidian. These small recognitions ensure a life’s weightiness, wariness, worthiness. Three centuries after Cowper, it’s not the countryside but the cityscape that allows Hamilton access to her own inner landscape.

The brilliance of “Faring,” as well as its task, resides in its narrative charting of daily moments lived as “a soothing down.”

—Claudia Rankine


Light before you call it light graying the sky. Doves on window ledges call and answer, a low branching into seven-fold division.

‘As’ means like but also means while: As a cloud passes. As the shadow in the early morning. As the door turns on the hinge.

Who was it who said that every narrative is a soothing down.

Winter sun floods the table.



Quarter past ten: Wave of nausea after morning pills, hot tea, six candles. Thin sheets of cloud now dominant.

The boy wants glow sticks as protection.

Radiator—is it a hiss or a shush? An aspirant or a consolation? Half our days spent living in the future, an illusion.



Six days later: as the light grows, so does my will for the weight that tethers us to the ground, shoulder blades descending and meeting.

Flowers at once religious, secular, and sexual.

Blue sky, a dot of cloud. Voices of children from the street below; children with a ball.

Builders are raising the scaffolding, preparing their day’s work. Talk with a friend, who was taken by the wolf at night.



Sediment on the windows, light flecks the edges of buildings, wind works at the building, worrying it, cyclist with a flickering lamp on the avenue below.

Shadow of a neighbor crosses the window in the building opposite.



Strength of feeling now vanished but the memory of it is of a kinship of some kind.

In its recollection, it registers unease beneath the day.

‘I love you,’ he says, ‘but maybe we shouldn’t profess our love for one another because, you know, it might mean you’ll die?’



And what is actual? The word derives from a cauterizing agent, ‘red-hot.’ Is actual for one time only, as if only once could something be realized? In its weakened sense, it is ‘opposed to potential, possible, ideal.’ Beside me on the sofa, the boy is restless with joyous movement and intermittent improvised joy.



In the streets below, each passerby carries time internally, it opens the mind like a flower blown in its native bed.

William Cowper in his laundered kerchief at table. He stares out of the poem in alarm.



By rue d’Amsterdam, inside the rib of the building, crowds rush to three imminent trains, wait by the sandwich and coffee kiosk, trailed by wheeled luggage, pigeons, soldiers moving among them. The eye of the corporal passes over a bystanding neighbor.

Listings and times flap, click, shuffle, the building lists towards departure as if inclined to hear the far-off sound that marks the end of land.

Musical interlude, another train entering the great mouth.



Saskia Hamilton is the author of five collections of poetry, As for Dream, Canal, Divide These, Corridor, and All Souls, which will be published by Graywolf Press in October. She is the editor of several volumes of poetry and letters, including The Letters of Robert Lowell and The Dolphin Letters, 1970–1979: Elizabeth Hardwick, Robert Lowell, and Their Circle. She teaches at Barnard College and is an advisory editor at the Review.

Claudia Rankine is the author of Just Us: An American Conversation; Citizen: An American Lyric, winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award and the Forward Prize, and Don’t Let Me Be Lonely: An American Lyric. She is a MacArthur Fellow and teaches at New York University. Her introduction to Saskia Hamilton’s “Faring” will appear in Raised by Wolves: Fifty Poets on Fifty Poems, to be published in January 2024.