Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Watermark by Jacquelyn Pope (Marsh Hawk Press PO BOX 206 East Rockaway, NY 11518 2005) $13. Jacquelyn Pope's new collection of poetry "Watermark" ( Marsh Hawk Press) is an undeniably melancholy, haunting, and accomplished collection of poetry. Pope's use of language is fine-tuned, clear, clipped, concise and most of all evocative. I was most impressed with the poems that dealt with human relationships. Her imagery beautifully defines estrangement, and the ultimately unknowable entity the "other." In "Mrs. Robinson," ( I'm assuming modeled after that disaffected, booze-swilling cipher of "The Graduate" fame), Pope paints a portrait of an empty woman with chilling precision: " He's fixed her off the page, where she'sabandoned: mid-century,semi-continential. Cold sunlightstabs the medicated air.Too bored to sitand suck the mentholated tipof her malaise, she wondersat the nerve that led him on" (41) In " By Light," Pope skillfully traces a woman's realization that even in what we feel are the most intimate relationships; we are ultimately strangers to one another. It is impressive how Pope uses the most banal of things such as: lamplight, and shadows on a wall to bring the poem home: " ...I sat/ in my own pool of light,/ still wholly/ untranslated into rooms that had/ learned you long ago. Our shadows/ hovered on their walls, dark forms/ drawn across the future./ Time flickered,/ fading from the room the night/ I saw our boundaries were drawn..." (39) When I read the work of some contemporary poets, often I find that the poems are obscure, inaccessible, and I simply can't relate to them. And just as often when I read small press poets whose work is accessible, I found that the poems are too facile and lack the heightened language a poem requires. Pope has written a collection that most of us non-academic poets can understand, relate to, and go back to in years to come. Doug Holder/ Ibbetson Update/ Somerville, Mass. 2004/ Sept. 2005

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