Catherine Jagoe’s


Recipient of the 2016 Settlement House American Poetry Prize

Catherine Jagoe is an award-winning poet, translator and writer based in Madison, Wisconsin. Born in Britain, she lived in England, Nigeria and Spain beforemoving to the United States in 1988. She holds a doctorate in Spanish literature from Cambridge University, and is the author of two poetry chapbooks, Casting Off (Parallel Press) and News from the North (Finishing Line Press). Bloodroot, her first full-length collection of poetry, is the winner of the 2016 Settlement House American Poetry Prize.

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Excerpt from  Bloodroot

Excerpt from Bloodroot


The 4-ounce Arctic tern

mates for life,

flies for thirty years

from pole to pole

and back, breeding

in the Arctic summer,

then following the sun

south to Antarctica.

A lifetime of double summers,

drenched in daylight—

endlessly on the wing,

this wind-rider who lives

for journeying, who stops ashore

only to begin new life,

who’s most at home in transit,

flying the equivalent of

three round-trip voyages

to the moon



Women, when they get together, grouse

about how baffling men are—

how they won’t talk, which sticks in the craw—

chewing and working the tough,

unpalatable skin of the world,

till it is supple enough

to be worn.

I think of my husband, mute

on the phone to me, out in the rain,

repainting his dying father’s name

on the sign so people could find

their way to his home.

I think of my father, besieged

by work, bending to caress

his roses, breathing in the scent

of blooms named after breeders’ wives:

deep crimson Ena Harkness,

pure white Madame Hardy.

His favorite, a pale yellow flushed

with pink, extremely fragrant,

was called Peace.



I will not forget the summer I forced myself

out onto the deck and slumped there in despair,

swollen-eyed, slatternly, my throat raw,

my head heavy with drugs that made me

endlessly sleep and eat but did not cure my pain,

how you suddenly appeared, suspended

in mid-air, a jeweled messenger

on wings of living, iridescent green.

The ruby at your throat glowed in the sun

as our eyes met. No one else saw you.

I knew your message was yourself: green

flame of concentrated life, scrap of pure,

unbounded energy. The next time I labored

under the same weight, you reappeared:

hovering between the lilacs and the bleeding heart.