The End of Horses/ poetry by Margo Taft Stever/ reviewed by Laurence Carr

Margo Taft Stever is no stranger to the readers of Lightwood. In 2020, we reviewed her book of poetry, Cracked Piano (cavankerrypress.org) and published her poem, “Gall”. Now her newest, intriguing volume, The End of Horses, has been published by Broadstone Books (Broadstonebooks.com) out of Frankfurt, Kentucky: with text and cover design by Larry R. Moore and a dynamic cover photo by Lynn Butler.

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This new collection moves the reader through a wide range of subject matter and literary form: from moving elegies and odes to taut prose poems, with the poet anchoring us in the world of living beings, but not putting any one species as the leader of our ongoing parade. Humankind interweaves with the stories, and I can say stories for the poems engage us in strong narratives, with other animal and plant life. Poems bring insights into the consciousness of rabbits, slugs, beavers, ravens, geese, turtles; a full menagerie is presented.

From “Dance of the Jackrabbit”

“Hum of fur,/of skin underneath,/hind legs thumping, always thumping/against the unforgiving ground.”

But horses remain at the hub of the book’s voice and tone. The book begins with “Galloping Double, Bareback” establishing the relationship between horse and human. 

“…The girls/ struggled to stay the horse/rippling through them like storm. “

This sets up the journey on which Ms. Stever takes us, extending to the title poem (page 49), “The End of Horses,” a moving and poignant piece. 

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The book also intersperses poems about the human species, mostly female observations from a variety of ages and relationships. The poems, “Posture Pictures” and “Fertility Doctor”, among others, connect with personal poems: “Death of a Grandmother” and “Instructions for Mother’s Burial”. Several poems grouped together in part Two bring a social/political edge to the reader. Prose poems, “Citizen’s Arrest”, the longer “Bomb Shelter Explosion Report”, the pulsing short-line “Back from L.A. with the C.I.A.”, and the more formal (in triplets) “MIT Poetry Workshop, 1969”, reflect on the nation’s turbulent past. I thought it a wonderful shift to end this section with the darkly whimsical, “Electrolux Salesman” which takes on its own political nuance.

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Ms. Stever’s imagery is always fresh and often takes us by surprise. She is able to bring both a heartfelt sense of human observation without sentimentality and an objectivity that never settles into arid explanations. Her sense of ecology and her concern with our Earth’s future are always present in this work, but Ms. Stever is a gifted enough poet to remain in the realm of the poetical and not to declaim or preach from the lectern or pulpit. The End of Horses, certainly a cautionary title as are many of the poems, remains with us, memorable long after we’ve reached the end.  This is a book that deserves not only to be on your bookshelf but dipped into frequently. And makes us realize that we are part of a living collective and not lone beings existing outside of our world.

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MARGO TAFT STEVER’s full-length poetry collections are Cracked Piano (CavanKerry Press, 2019), which was shortlisted and received honorable mention for the 2021 Eric Hoffer Award Grand Prize, and Frozen Spring, Mid-list Press 2002 First Series Award for Poetry. Her latest of four chapbooks is Ghost Moose (Katty- wompus Press, 2019). Her poems have appeared in literary magazines including Verse DailyPlant-Human QuarterlyCincinnati ReviewRattapallaxupstreetSalamanderWest BranchPoet LoreBlackbirdPoem-A-Day, poets.org, Academy of American Poets, and Prairie Schooner. She is currently an adjunct assistant professor in the Bioethics Department of the School of Medicine at Case Western Reserve University.  She is founder of the Hudson Valley Writers Center and founding and current co-editor of Slapering Hol Press. (www.margotaftstever.com) 

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