Good Morning, Unseen–a poetry chapbook review


by Catherine Carter

Jacar Press, 2023

reviewed by Bethany Reid

Reading Catherine Carter’s chapbook, Good Morning, Unseen, I felt as though I were seated at the kitchen table of a new friend. She pours coffee and offers a slice of crumb cake, takes the chair across from me, says, “Listen.”

Good Morning, Unseen pays attention to things invisible or overlooked, and asks us to pay attention, too. The title poem begins with the body, greeting “bacteria / breeding in my coiled gut,” “yeasts fermenting,” then expands to the world that surrounds the body, including the “magnetic field / of gravity.” The next poem, “Gravy, 1966,” imagines how the poet’s birth changed the trajectory of her father’s military service from Viet Nam. No “acid ants,” no “crotch rot,” “that tropical soup of fear,” but an assignment to a base in Maryland,  “the clean wash / just in from the wire / line.” And then, as if this unseen world can’t help but include it, the poem travels to be with the soldier who took her father’s place, “heir / to the exhausted stagger, fields sprouting / maggots, mud soft and thick” as the gravy her mother stirred at the poem’s opening. The poet is heir to both worlds, and takes neither for granted.

Carter is a professor of English at Western Carolina University, and has four previous poetry books. She must spend a lot of time at a desk, but her biographical note ends with this playful confession:

On a good day, she can re-queen a hive of honeybees and roll a whitewater kayak; on less good days, she collects stings, rock-rash, and multiple contusions.

So maybe I need to revise my opening, not the kitchen-table and coffee, but hiking boots and a trail along a river. Here we explore secret parts of the body, usually not spoken of, but in the poem, “Devil’s walking-stick,” we enter a forest, and in perhaps my favorite poem in the collection, “The color of aquamarine: a spell for blessing,” we are on the shoreline:

Pale beryl cousin of emerald, whose name
means seawater. Color of light
through suspended solution of salt, milt,
urine, single-celled cyan algae,

fringed baleen, elastic frayed
from someone’s bikini…”

The second sentence of “The color of aquamarine,” listing what we see through for 14 lines, chimes with the sounds, plosives of p and b, the lilt of repeated l’s.

            Wherever the poems of Good Morning, Unseen take us, we know we are in the hands of an insightful, surefooted guide.


Bethany Reid’s latest book of poetry, The Pear Tree: elegy for a farm was published on January 1st of this year. Her other books of poetry, include Sparrow, which won the 2012 Gell Poetry Prize, and Body My House (2018).  Her poems, essays, and short stories have recently appeared in One Art, Passengers, Persimmon Tree, Constellations, and elsewhere, and her chapbook, The Thing with Feathers, was published in 2020 as part of Triple No. 10 by Ravenna Press. Bethany and her husband live in Edmonds, Washington, near their three grown daughters; she  blogs about writing and life at .


Get Good Morning, Unseen at Jacar Press

Catherine Carter’s website

Interview of Catherine Carter on Poets on Poetry on YouTube 

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