Saturday, December 26, 2015

Otherwise Unseeable by Betsy Sholl

Otherwise Unseeable
by Betsy Sholl
The Univesity of Wisconsin Press $16.95 (paper)

Former Maine Poet Laureate, Betsy Sholl, has seven collections of poetry. Her most recent, Otherwise Unseeable, is the winner of the 2014 Four Lakes Poetry Prize.
Assembled in three sections, the collection seems to start off locally mainly on the east coast of the United States. In “The Clam Diggers” written in ten couplets, we read “Through grit thicker than coffee grounds,/ they tend to look for what bores in// and spits air bubbles out.” By Section II we have traveled farther, to “Russian Bells” and then on to “U.S. Clamps Down on Pianos to Cuba”, written in sixteen tercets. “To get donated Steinways and Baldwins/ into Havana requires cranes, a cargo ship,/ . . . //which aren’t on the dock when the ship arrives./ So the young American who’s risking / arrest to break this sound barrier// worries and phones, paces and waits.” By Section III, we are happily almost anywhere as in “Bass Flute” “No talk here of Meaning, it’s all ing,/ raw urge that nudges the wall between/ music and noise.” The collection is both local and widely geographic. The style, while mainly short stanzas in relatively poems also includes one prose poem, “Wood Shedding” and a few that are as original in form as well as content. That last category would include “Shrines” presented in five parts with dialog offset in italics and time and place changes from Ireland back to a prison art room back to Ireland, at the foot of a statue of a saint. “where a stone Saint Colum was surrounded by// a yellow cigarette lighter, a key ring with green gremlin, a rain-swollen/ missal, toy train, crumpled cigarette pack, inhaler, cassette tape, a small/ heart-shaped stone ...// and we wondered what the saint made of all this.” 

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Review of Our Lady of the Hunger: Poems

Our Lady of the Hunger: Poems
by Kat Georges
Three Rooms Press $15.00 (paper)

Kat Georges, among other creative efforts, is the co-founder and editor of Three Rooms Press, based in New York City. Her poems are urban and contemporary with humor in the mix. In “Text Me if You Can” she points out what we may know “So much was done before the age of the text message: / Pyramids and cathedrals, empires’ rise and fall / Small wars, civil wars, world wars, atomic wars / And art galore – enough to fill galleries and crypts.” But then turns it to humorous insight. “And it was all so much fun back in the days when / Children did not ignore parents by texting at dinner / And emotions were not aligned pharmaceutically and / Even the brokenhearted found a way to laugh / When the fat lady slipped on a banana peel.” The poems are snapshots of life in the city including a man wearing a papier-mache white rabbit’s head, young girls on the way to school telling the rain to stop, and the anonymous members of “Women’s Group”. “they went around the circle / each woman baring her soul / with their life’s current / unbearable problem.” The poet, who was there with a friend, blurted out she could not find time for herself. Among the unsigned index card responses she got suggestions for getting a massage, getting more exercise, and quitting caffeine. “only one card / made any real sense // it read ‘stop thinking / so much about / yourself’ // a revelation indeed”.

Monday, December 14, 2015

Review of True Affections: Poems from a Small Town

True Affections: Poems from a Small Town
by Elizabeth W. Garber
Illuminated Sea Press $15.00 (paper)

Elizabeth Garber, the former Belfast (Maine) poet laureate and Stonecoast MFA graduate, writes with the accuracy of the acupuncture she also practices. She portrays people living their lives at home in Maine, although sometimes in and around visitors, with a sense of the day to day elevated to the more universal. Her poem “The Tow Truck Driver’s Story” comes to us in the voice of the tow truck driver himself who tells of the time he got up after only one hour’s sleep to answer an emergency call. He endures three hours of dangerous driving to an address described as Appleton Ridge “Then a man in, I kid you not, a red / satin smoking jacket comes out and waves. / I think he is waving at me, and wave back, but it’s a garage door opener and out of the dark / a door rises, lit like a museum, / a car, glittering white and chrome beauty, / it was a 1954 Mercedes.” The driver asks if the man in the smoking jacket is going to take it out. “Oh, no, we just got back from Jamaica / I want a jump to make sure it’s ok.” The book includes local tastes, too, with “Ode to Cider” and “Ode to Rhubarb”. “Oh rhubarb, Spring’s tart sourpuss, too often / insulted . . . .” Garber’s colloquial style makes the poems easy to read, and yet, they all convey a greater insight into the value of the seemingly mundane.