Monday, January 02, 2006

The Glassblowers Tale
By Joanne McFarland
Review by Matt Rosenthal

ISBN: 0-9774245-0-2
Copyright 2005 Joanne McFarland

Published by;
Gold Leaf Books
543 Union St. Studio B
Brooklyn, New York 11215

In the Glassblower’s Tale, Joanne McFarland paints, in vivid hues, the rainbow of emotional states between hope and despair. Her palette consists of many human body and bodily function images that tie the emotions to the earth. Many voices from 1st person to 3rd are employed to give each experience its appropriate saliency.

The main themes of the book are best illuminated through some of its greatest one-liners…
"in a legendless universe…
danger was more magnificent that art." (burial ground)
"Where hope is meaner than hate" (tides)
"The draw to ruin is strong in us.
We love parts-stories" (burial ground)
"We measure loss by what remains" (hunger)

The spaces between hope and despair in Ms. McFarland’s poems are filled with themes of loss, desire, passion, hunger, survival, abuse, and perseverance. Often several of these themes are woven into one poem, and the body images are most poignantly used to convey them. This is the case in "Somewhere Not Here".

A man hurls grains of rice,
as his wife prays the rains will come.
slowly he moves forward,
a wound in sere landscape,
right arm flinging pieces of the future.
She kneels outside their hut.
Inside, life darts without pattern –
boy, girl, bigger girl.
Last year they were lucky,
the rains came just when they should,
chapters in a lush book.

A sky saturated with clouds hangs prescient,
Cloth languishes between legs hungry
for a breeze. The man snaking
through the field, feeding it
every mouthful spared.

Lines like:
"right arm flinging pieces of the future", "legs hungry for a breeze" and "feeding it every mouthful spared"
convey the themes of perseverance, need, hope and hunger better than any of the poem’s other lines. In essence, Ms. McFarland makes the body the vessel of emotional expression.
In concert with these images she uses contrasting viewpoints to illustrate emotional counter tensions. In "The Guild", three sections, or voices, comprise the poem. They are: The Apprentice, The Journeyman and The Master. Issues are handled, once again, employing bodily function.

The Apprentice proclaims:

"Even the news of poisonings doesn’t frighten me; or word of men, marooned in space without nourishment, watching as the Earth rotates in its toxins. I am still eager to be fed".
Here the Apprentice wants to consume the world. The function of eating conveys ambition.

The Master says:
"Let me smell the last thing you ate, then taste it as my tongue penetrates where your songs begin;"
Here the image of consuming is converted to Pygmalion production, where the Masters tongue (his teaching) turns the Apprentice’s tongue to song.
Finally, the last line of "The Guild"ends on a phoenix like note of hope springing from resignation.
"…my own scent of ashes flavoring this crevice of the world where finally, finally, we have found each other".
And in the end, The Glassblower’s Tale is at its best when hope and despair have found each other.

Matt Rosenthal is a member of the "Bagel Bards" that meets each Saturday at 9 AM at Finagle-A-Bagel in Harvard Square.

No comments:

Post a Comment