Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Not To: New and Selected Poems. Elaine Terranova. (The Sheep Meadow Press. Riverdale-On-Hudson, NY 10471) $14.95

This is the second book of poetry from the “Sheep Meadow Press” that I have read and reviewed. The other collection was Richard Wollman’s “Evidence of Things Seen.” Both books were excellent reads and were handsomely presented. Elaine Terranova’s collection “Not To: New and Selected Poems” is poetry at its best: lean, cuts to the chase, striking imagery, and masterful metaphor. In the poem “A Story,” Terranova uses a woman’s “beautiful, impervious face,” as a jumping off point to examine our search for transcendence-- for the answer to the unanswerable:

“I spot on the street a woman’s
beautiful, impervious face
like a China plate. She is
talking to air. “That’s

the end,” she says.
“That’s all there is, that’s
my story.” I’m sorry
to have missed the good part,
hovering over us like vapor.

What drops at her feet?—
a bird, a leaf, a candywrapper,
something from the world.
I know that even without that
encouragement, she would go on...

Think of those people who call
middle of the night from
the impossibly far reaches of an old
friendship, new acquaintance…

It isn’t you they want,
voice thinning out to ether,
only access to the entrails
of the divine animal.” (68-9)

In the poem “In the Home,” Terranova uses the props of a small chair, a heavy rain, and a fleeting memory of braided hair with heartbreaking effect to describe her mother in her terminal dotage:

“My mother sits in the small chair
that is now enough for her.

Her fingers find the edge
and tap, tap
as if there is something
she is trying to remember:

the way she liked to braid
her long thick hair

in the terrible rain
that shut us off
from all the other houses.” (171)

Highly Recommended.

Doug Holder/Ibbetson Update/Dec. 2006/ Somerville, Mass.

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