April is Poetry Month, and our regular contributor Amy Pence is back with a review of two collections that will pique your interest even if you’re not a long time lover of poetry.
Why can’t the mind bear to stay/ in the beauties that surround it?—Chase Twichell
It’s a good question to take into April—not coincidentally Poetry Month— when the natal rush of new blossoms can temporarily cause us to gasp. That is, until we are back to the grind, preoccupied by other—usually more mundane—concerns. Two volumes by poets Laura Kasischke and Chase Twichell make excellent spring companions, producing as they do crystalline insights emerging from the routine.
Ever since discovering Kasischke’s send-up of Barney the Dinosaur:
I see him
crossing the tundra in snowshoes like a big
hug coming, lost
in a body. Consider: if I become him
what kind of suffering?
I’ve been taken with how she navigates the suburban milieu. You may recognize yourself in her poems. If you’re a parent who also has aging parents, you’ll understand her preoccupation not only with soul-sucking hospital rooms, but with the tenderizing tedium of children’s choirs and violin lessons. Her poem, “They Say,” begins: “one-tenth of our lives is wasted/ standing in line.// The sacred path of that.”
Kasischke’s poems—many in prose form— are approachable and ground us in the world we know, but she won’t stay there long; prepare to be transformed. In “At the public pool,” the speaker travels from meditation to pique and back to illustrate the elusive bonds between parents and children:
The public life.
The Radio Songs.
The Hall of Stuff We Bought at the Mall. The plugged-up fountain at
of the Museum of Crap that Couldn’t Last
has flooded it all.
Come in, I said again. In here you can carry your mother in your arms.
I still see his beautiful belly forever.
The blond curls on his perfect head.
The whole Botticelli of it crawling on the surface
of the water. And
his sad, considerate expression.
No, he said.
While Laura Kasischke’s Space, In Chains shows us the sublime in the ordinary, Chase Twichell’s Horses Where the Answers Should Have Been: New and Selected Poems takes the reverse route. Her ruminative tone and her selection of vivid details reveal that the mythic is accessible in every moment; in other words, she finds the ordinary in the sublime. Her penultimate poem “From a Distance” begins:
Of all the selves I’ve invented,
the ones most fixed in memory
are the horse-child startling,
the dog-child sniffing the still-warm ashes..
And where am I now,
bereft of their company? Death will come
and take me to them, and a new self will begin
to ask these questions as if for the first time.
This poem, like many in the volume, blends the dream-life of the world—one particular childhood can encompass our mythic childhood—to pose all the questions we should be prepared to answer in a life so fleeting.
– Amy Pence, Regular Contributor