Photo by Howard Mortman, M.D.
In addition to presenting a fine selection of original poetry by Joan Kunsch, Playing with Gravity contains a number of her Norwegian translations. Ranging from the streets of Torrington, CT to the tundra of Arctic Norway; the avenues of St. Petersburg, Moscow, and Oslo; and the heartland where ebullience, despair, and laughter reside, the book has been greeted with great enthusiasm.

Charles Van Doren writes, “This book is wonderful. I have read all the poems at least twice, some three or four times – to myself and to my wife. They are moving, beautiful, startling, and sometimes very funny. The range is extraordinary, from the dirge for a friend murdered in Zimbabwe to the ode to chocolate. The short ones are delightful and the long ones grand.” Other endorsements have been equally enthusiastic: “My delight in Joan Kunsch’s poetry lies in her ability to capture the moment of experience, be it of the past or the present, of Torrington or the Arctic tundra,” says Ann Hutchinson Guest. And Susan Kinsolving comments as follows: “Joan Kunsch writes, ‘The one who haunts me is never twice the same...’ How true. As she dances, mourns, reflects, travels, and translates, her readers too may be haunted by these poems, and indeed, never quite the same, thanks to this fine collection.”

Joan Kunsch is on the classical ballet faculty at Nutmeg Conservatory for the Arts, where she is also associate director. Guest teaching and choreography have taken her around North America and abroad, particularly to Scandinavia, England and The Netherlands. She belongs to a teaching team that has produced dancers for over fifty professional companies touring worldwide, and her choreography comprises over sixty works for concert stage, television, sacred space and outdoor sites. An artist and writer, Joan Kunsch has had work published in the U.S.A., Norway, England and India. She translates contemporary Norwegian poets, presents readings in Norwegian as well as English, and performs “Flute Meets Poem” in a duo with her sister, Kathi Byam. She lives in Torrington, Connecticut.

The Antrim House seminar room offers notes, ideas for discussion & writing, images, and/or additional poems. Click here to read the seminar offering for Perspective.

Click here to read six sample poems.

News Break: Joan Kunsch's translation of Dag Sundby's "Window on the Moldau," which appears in Playing with Gravity, has been selected as one of the twelve best poems ever published in Ice Flow, an Alaskan periodical.


ISBN 978-0-9770633-8-3
136 pages, 6" x 9" trade paperback



in a rushing stream
water-flung reflections
brocade the skin
of belly and flank
Her unborn son
tries the new feeling
of head above heels
as he floats
her perfectly centered


Often in dreams I am waving farewell to you
through double glass panes: my taxi
or train window and yours,
somewhere in Russia.  Last night
you were en route to your past
via the “Moskoview Express”
while I set out in the opposite direction
to be a guest choreographer somewhere.
Other nights the dream luggage evaporates
or we have to run faster than fire
or the address we urgently seek
proves to be non-existent
just as the boulevard of our destiny dwindles
into a gravel path along a fence. 
Yet in each dream is a sense
of our having decoded the message
found the lost children
lived through the siege
glimpsed the splendor
— only to part
certain of reunion
at an understood
place and time
we never name.


"Often a star was waiting for you to notice it."
- Rainer Maria Rilke

Your arrival in the pasture at 2:00 a.m.
is heralded by one astonished Schnauzer
dashing ahead as chief usher.
Concert hall, art gallery and ballet
awaited your arrival in vain
on this August night.
Stately at any hour, you take a seat
as joyous barks prelude
the one event
where earthlings are incidental
and the performance opens
with or without us.
Meteors charge past, stars break rank on impulse,
the heavens are at play - exempt
from their staid patterns. A whimsical God rummages
in His toybox, undisturbed by lack of privacy,
no doubt casting a conspiratorial wink
in your direction... For you, who disdain
organized worship, have remained guest of honor
throughout this four-hour Gala. With dawn as finale,
you uncork a coffee thermos, forgotten all night,
after which heading home for breakfast
becomes your way back from awe
to wide wondrous earth's


Odd that, in all the years we've known each other,
my cat and I, until tonight,
have never before met on the street
(she with her friend, I with mine).
An exchanged glance determines
there's to be no purring,
no ankle-rubbing, no stooping
to stroke bewhiskered cheek and flickered ear -
nor other such loss of dignity -
one glance:
enough for recognition,
greeting (when on a public thoroughfare)
and a comrades' agreement
to maintain the restraint our pride imposes.


Feet first, she leans
out the Chevy door
(one arm missing,
one withered)
and faces him
with neck and jaw set
for the grip of his hands
around her head.
Locked in motion
they take the outward swing
in perfect rhythm
and he's got her
clean on her feet,
another week's shopping trip


The mountain must have trembled at such a fall.
The Elg (lord of the forest,
Norwegian brother to elk and moose)
lies surrounded by faces ruddy in torchlight
under hunters' caps of riotous color.
Invited to sit on the animal's shoulder
I feel tremendous muscle mass
slack under his pelt.
At once we lift off, I and the soul of the Elg
above tips of fir trees pointing up
beyond mountain crest: night sky opens wide,
past blends with present, saga with reality.
There to the south, the Hall of the Mountain King
lures Per Gynt to new revels
while beside a distant lake
his mother Aase wrings her poor hands.
Epochs parade past: Viking,
troll, reindeer, pilgrim king,
villain, priest, bard and princess.
Gudrid's journey begins anew,
Kristin Lavransdatter reaches Nidaros Cathedral,
Saint Olav blesses the throngs,
a queen seems to be running away.
From antiquity all of them know the Elg and his kind.
Overhead, shifting pillars of light
color the firmament, swoop
and plunge around us
as Aurora Borealis receives the soul of the Elg.
I cling to his pelt while the hues shimmer and shift
then slow (dreamlike) down
bringing back into focus the bright caps,
the laughing faces around me,
elated at having a foreigner see their triumph.
It has taken this prime team of hunters
eight days to drive the Elg from forest to field
and a split second for a proud marksman
to burst the heart. Though a tractor will draw him
down the mountainside to become
food and warmth for villagers below,
the Elg and I keep our secret:
no one guesses how far we have come
in a moment's travel, moving not an inch
from where he lies on his right side,
eye to eye now with the Polar stars.

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