"Eleanor McQuilkin well understands poetry's power to compact large meanings into small spaces and to provide a place where emotion and wit can happily coexist. Her concise and circumspect poems are clever, heartfelt, and brimming with canny observations. It is a joy to hear her clear voice come off the page." - Billy Collins
"Eleanor McQuilkin's beautiful, artfully arranged collection of poems begins unassumingly and modestly with the common consolations of rural life--with gardens, birds, trees, wind and weather--and opens gradually to embrace more and more of the world. Along the way it finds room for mischief, for tough honesty, for humor and gaiety, as it expands into distant and exotic parts, finally to arrive, in what is its deeply moving and eloquent culmination, at an 'undiscovered country' revealed in the same spare, honest language with which her journey had begun. Every Sky is as severe, as lovely, as forlorn as some of the paintings of Edward Hopper; as witty as the music of Erik Satie; as lean as the poems of Stephen Crane; as unflinching as the photographs of Walker Evans. But its terse and powerful ending, with its rich, orchestral resonances, is altogether and triumphantly the work of Eleanor McQuilkin." - Anthony Hecht
"Every poem in Eleanor McQuilkin's Every Sky is a moving celebration of the powers of eye, ear, wit, and memory. It is a wonderful book, out of a long, full life, a gathering of evergreen wonders." - Jarold Ramsey
Read some poems from this book.
Eleanor Atterbury McQuilkin was born in Wyckoff, New Jersey, and in 1908 moved to Rochester, New York. She died at the age of 95 in 2004. A graduate of the Ethel Walker School in Simsbury, Connecticut, and of Smith College, Class of 1930, she later studied at Oxford University.
She was a former President of the Rochester Poetry Society and an active member of several literary organizations, including Wednesday Club and The Book Club. She was an energetic supporter of the Memorial Art Gallery, the Rush Rees Library at the University of Rochester, and Writers & Books, where she read her work on several occasions.
During World War II, she served as a Nurse's Aid and for many years was a volunteer at the Friendly Home. She was the mother of four sons and had ten grandchildren as well as eight great-grandchildren.
Eleanor McQuilkin’s poetry is informed by the death of her husband from Alzheimer's some years ago, but despite its moments of terrible grief, its most distinctive qualities are enormous joie de vivre and generosity of spirit.
"But will it handle easily?"
How would she know,
ankles thick above spike heels –
"It's what I fly myself," she murmured.
And how could I not know
In summer dusk
the groping green untidy hair
seems to find you – the quivering
smell you –
it crawls into the groin
tangles with the blood
this nearly animal
the moist sweet scent of musk
Sabbath summer there,
Peace, Peace, the preacher speaks.
But in the evening, magic sweeps the air:
the hunting time of bats,
deft and elfin bats harvesting
the darkness –
ancient grimace on a noble face.