Baxter’s Pinnacle, Sue Chenette

Charles Hood, You Were Warned



Baxter’s Pinnacle

I don’t no take
up meditation or sun thing can’t
find the meadow pipes
plumbing the night last

Escher for cowpats or
another way is rock
climbing holds hard the hard
face gripped the sole’s a

tension shunted l’edge-
wise up til the very
pineapple not
mal propped attend

the all clear! So
poetry can graze the air.

Sue Chenette


Review by Devon Balwit

After reading Sue Chenette’s piece, I Googled Baxter’s Pinnacle and found it is in the Grand Tetons, a mountain range where I too climbed, scaling Devil’s Peak, 43 years ago. How fitting then for me to attempt to summit her poem.

What drew me to it first was its homophonic play: no / know; the sole’s a tension / the soul’s attention; pineapple / pinnacle; mal propped / malapropism; ledge-wise / edge-wise; graze / grace. Fun stuff. One balances between meanings as a climber does between hand and foot-holds, reaching out and smacking the rock to be sure it’s firm and doesn’t pull away under one’s body weight. Writing a poem is a form of climbing, pulling the mind’s weight up to the peak / idea that one set out for, trying to get there elegantly without falling or failing.

The reader, too, must follow in the writer’s footsteps, the way a later climber follows after the route-finder. One, indeed, goes ledge-wise and edgewise. Here a chock, there a chock. At times, the later climber curses—This crack is supposed to fit my fat fingers? No way!—as when I try to follow the lines: “can’t / find the meadow pipes /plumbing the last night //Escher for cowpats.” What were you thinking, Sue? Pipes, as in plumbing, as in water delivery system? Pipes as in geologic formations, old lava, basalt residue? Plumbing Escher as in deep-diving into psychedelic dreams, no idea which way is up? Definitely my face is gripped and my sole’s all tension trying to follow Chenette up and up.

Finally, take a look at Baxter’s Pinnacle and tell me that, arriving atop its pineapple, you would not “graze the air.”


Review by Chapman Hood Frazier

         The opening line caught me with its double negative, its intentional flaw an irreverence that cuts straight up like the actual rock face climb that this climb is.  Tight spots on the sunny side where the rock itself is Escher-like when looking at distant ground. Love the angles here, the rock shock of it. The sound playing with alliteration…”pipes/ plumbing the night last/” and how the jagged rhythm of it is caught.

You can feel the way the body’s tension is felt in the climb, the tough exterior in both line breaks and sound: the breathy: “holds hard the hard/ face gripped the sol’s a/

tension shunted l’edge-/wise up til the very.”

Chenette’s caught it masterfully here tightening the lines as they rise in word play: “pineapple not/ mal propped attend/ the all clear!” Which must be the real feel from the pinnacle itself—the vision caught in this expansiveness of air. This, in her poetry of gaze.

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