An Eclipse and a Butcher

An Eclipse and a Butcher Cover

An Eclipse and a Butcher

By Ann-Chadwell Humphries

$15, from Muddy Ford Press.


Three eclipses punctuate this book.

The first is the most recent, and Ann Humphries reminds us that whatever we thought we knew, something about the experience could surprise us, the book thus opening with what “we had not expected.” And whatever we wanted to know or learn, the experience was gone before we could grasp it. It may be “A Portrait in Bronze of the Eclipse,” but bronze is not solid, it is the evanescent metallic light that limns the scene for a moment, then disappears. It is a moment of perception that is gone before we can capture what it was, what it meant.

The second eclipse is one from her childhood, a memory-like many poems in this book-about family and growing up. But memory here is neither sentimental nor nostalgic. She is aware that unspoken relations stitch every scene, determine how we move through the world and what it offers us. In this poem, we see small local lives lit and dimmed by histories both personal and public. Over and over Humphries offers little stories in which family, geography, catastrophe, nation are gravities that may push us together or pull us apart. What happens far away-in time or space-casts a shadow on what is near.

In last eclipse of the book, in 1918, an artist tries to capture that fleeting perception of the eclipse, tries to capture in paint what photographs fail to record. To see differently is to see more accurately.

In all of these, of course, we are mindful of warnings not to look too close or too long-staring at the sun can make you blind. Threaded through the book are poems about coming to terms with blindness. Humphries insists that she is “Fine with blind” late in the book, but over and over she demonstrates that that vision is more than what we see-that we may know who we are and where we are by touch and sound, by friendship and family, and by memory, the distant sun that lights this book.

This is a book of resilience and beauty-and love, there is so much love in this book. There are poems of bracing directness and delicate description. I love the economy of her language, how a portrait can be sketched in one line, how straightforward language can carry unspoken cargoes of meaning, how the loss of something is not darkness but a moment that may limn the world around us with its rippling, unexpected light.

Ed Madden
Poet Laureate
Columbia, South Carolina


Praise for An Eclipse and A Butcher

“I’m in awe of the masterful clarity, the perfectly weighted brevity of Ann Humphries’ poems. There’s an immense comfort in her vivid scenes, her people and places so rich in presence, and her clear gaze. … A stunning collection!”
– Naomi Shihab Nye, Young People’s Poet Laureate

“Ann Chadwell Humphries is a poet of many eclipses—celestial, such as the unexpected ‘metallic light’ beheld with solar glasses, but also eclipses of vision as her sight was lost later in life to the ravages of a recessive gene. And though these poems beautifully document that loss and its attendant difficulties, An Eclipse is the record of a woman who sees with her entire being.”
– Nickole Brown, author of Fanny Says and Jessica Jacobs, author of Take Me With You, Wherever You’re Going


Author Bio

Headshot of Ann-Chadwell HumphriesAnn-Chadwell Humphries lives in Columbia, SC. As a girl, Ann competed in school poetry recitation through the University Interscholastic League in Leakey and Austin, Texas. Ann took Honors English in college, yet only after retirement did Ann begin to write poetry through community writing classes. She has also taken graduate poetry classes at the University of South Carolina, poetry workshops at Wofford College, and online classes through University of Iowa, University of Pennsylvania, and the Hadley Institute for the Blind. Her work has appeared in Jasper, Emrys, The Collective I, Indolent Books’ What Rough Beast series, and the Poems on the Comet series, a public poetry project that puts writing on city buses. She was the winner of a Sun Magazine scholarship, recipient of an Emerging Voices award through the Jasper Project, and a winner in the Poetry Society of South Carolina’s annual contests. She reads and writes her work using assistive technology. Ann-Chadwell Humphries’ book, An Eclipse and a Butcher (2020) is the second in the Muddy Ford Press Laureate Series of Books.