Tilling the Darkness


In Susan Braley’s debut poetry collection, Tilling the Darkness, a young woman born into a family of eleven navigates the inequities of gender roles on the farm and in the church. In this dramatic rural setting—birth and death sudden in the barn, the seasons vivid over the fields—she experiences first-hand how swiftly seedlings become stalks ploughed down, how easily she and her sisters are discounted. Tilling the Darkness explores how we all undertake this tilling ritual, season after season, in the finite field of our lives. Our darkness may be a calamity we seek to escape—a grave, a war, a grief—and our wish is the promise of renewal. In these powerful poems, it is often women who, even in the face of injury and erasure, turn dark to light. Braley’s poetry traces how this woman, after leaving the farm, comes to appreciate the complex, bountiful legacy of her early life.