Review: Mended

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.

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Review: Before the Snow Moon

Review: Before the Snow Moon

A chapbook by Alison Swan

Alice Greene & Company

Throughout Before the Snow Moon there are neither page numbers nor punctuation. Alison chooses instead the natural pause of a line break or syllabic accent to pace readers. Subtle, but apt, as is her subject and voice. The opening lines of her poem: “In Medias Res” immediately call to mind similar lines from William Stafford’s famous poem, “Traveling Through the Dark.” However, where Stafford contemplates the impact and value of human life vs non-human life. Swan’s perspective reads much less anthropocentrically. She is not apart from nature, she is of it. Her communion is her default mode, and to join society is only a pause. In the closing lines of the title poem, the speaker, having been awakened mid-slumber, has gone to the window in search of an owl: “Cold air carried hoots and soughs across the sill / I climbed back under to listen to everything”. These are poems from a grateful, humble, careful poet, one who marvels at the depth of
the world and feels greater responsibility than power.

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