Review: Mended


Chapbook by Kathleen McGookey

Kattywompus Press

In the title poem, the narrator says, “today my life seems mended,” but this collection suggests otherwise. This chapbook of prose poems belies an uneasy truce with death, disease, and dying. The word “ache” recurs throughout. The poems are unsettled by unanswerable questions, such as in “Grief III,” where the poet asks of Grief “wherever my mother and father have gone, do you leave them alone there?” The collection varies from works that read like flash memoir to more surreal works that use the odd juxtapositions of dream logic. For example, the poem “Dear Death” asserts “I have had enough of you. I’d rather learn facts about penguins….”

The subjects of the poems are often aging and dying parents and the vulnerability of an infant daughter. Also, the poet’s dislike of possums: “After I hear the possum eating garbage in the garage, I plan to kill it. It’s no comfort knowing the killing gets easier each time.” Many of the poems are direct and accessible, and many of the others take more work to read, circling the subject. As a whole the poems take on fragility from many different directions. In the best moments, McGookey melds the surreal and the direct, in poems like “Another Ache,” which ends as such:

Then the suitcase fell off and the tire exploded. Then the driver got out to look at the lake, it’s calm expanse. Everyone felt worse because nothing had been predicted, no sign of trouble on such a sunny day, while road salt glittered its million cheap promises, and strands of videotape flashed down, then bright, in that clean light.


Review: Magnolia & Lotus

Review:Magnolia & Lotus

Selected Poems of Hyesim

Translated by Ian Haight and T’ae-Yŏng Hŏ

White Pine Press

Chin’gak Kuska Hyesim’s Buddhist poetry survives from 13th century Korea and arrives in this present translation, which includes tightly-phrased imagistic poetry that draws its spiritualism equally from nature and social settings. This collection offers layers of meaning, both from the Buddhist unfolding of significance and from the pairing of the introductory notes with the text of the translated poems.

The opening notes are instructive in how poetry seeks to embody meaning through image and metaphor instead of through direct statement. For example, Haight explains how the boiling tea kettle is a frequent metaphor for meditation in Hyesim. With that one bit of information, the deceivingly simple poems take on new layers. Many water images appear in the nature poems: flowing, frozen, and misty. It’s an easy leap to see water as states of consciousness. “Tea-Spring” brings these images together:

Old moss conceals pine roots–

From a granite hole, a spring gushes its spirit-fountain.

Opportune refreshment is not easy to find–

in this place, I’ll try to brew tea.

Translation in poetry is not transliteration; it is always a creative act, and especially so given the distance from Hyesim’s time and language to contemporary English. The end notes reveal this distance: one poem contains a “six-eyebrowed monk” about whom the translators say “the meaning of ‘six-eyebrowed’ is unknown at this time.” This and other notes offer insight in the meaning of meaning, in terms of both translation and the nature of the universe.


Meet Michigan Poet Tracy Morris

For our November/December issue, Tracy Morris, a poet from Detroit, shares “How Not to Cry.”  Tracy says of her work:

My writing is innately personal; my way of communicating with loved ones who have made their transition, sharing stories about loved ones still with me, and creating word sketches of people who touch my heart on a daily basis. It’s my hope that my work inspires others to do the same.

The broadside features Tracy’s poem set against the backdrop of English Romantic painter J.M.W. Turner’s Rain, Steam, and Speed.

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