Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Reunion by Lois Ames

A few years back Lois Ames gave me a chapbook of her poetry titled Reunion. I had the privilege to interview Ames, and she is a fascinating study. Ames is the editor of Anne Sexton: A Self-Portrait in Letters (with Lois Ames, 1992), and wrote the introduction to Sylvia Plath's Bell Jar. She was a confidante to both Sexton and Plath. I never got a chance to review this book, but Emilly Braille an English major at Endicott College where I teach reviewed this fine chapbook of poetry by Ames. This is part of a series of reviews by English and Creative Writing majors at Endicott College in Beverly, Mass.

Reunion by Lois Ames
Something Fishie Publications Acton, MA. (1997) No Price.

Review by Emily Braile

Reunion by Lois Ames is a short collection of poetry that reads like a meditation on the world that surrounds Ames, her relationship with that world, with other people, and with herself. Ames writes in a style that is both contemplative yet concrete, reminiscent of Rumi and Lydia Davis all at once. She extracts the essence of a situation or conversation, and then translates it into an assortment of words both romantic and simplistic.

In “Haiku for a College Reunion,” Ames manages to pinpoint the strange, time-warping experience of returning to people and places from one’s past that have, in and of themselves, moved forward:

My seventeen year old self
goes back to confront
all of those aging ladies (4).

In the poem “Last Days,” Ames conveys a love of, and preference for, summer above the other seasons, or at the very least above autumn. She writes:

I try to hold
on to summer
at the edges
in the same way
I seize
at the eiderdown
from the bed
in the cool
autumn night (32).

There is no obvious reflection within the language of this poem on how Ames feels with the approach of autumn and the inevitable loss of summer. However, she takes an experience everyone is familiar with, the “slipping” of blankets from the bed, to illustrate the emotions she experiences with the last days of summer. With this simple, relatable image, she is able to capture and illuminate the sensation of the sudden loss of comfort and warmth; something summer brings to her and autumn takes away. This is a sentiment I can relate to and agree with. In twenty-nine words, Ames has told me something about herself, how she views the world around her, and established common ground with me and other summer-favoring readers.

Scattered throughout Reunion are poems, often short and tightly written, reflecting on Ames’s relationship with herself. In the poem “The Scrapbook of a Farm Woman: Portraits, Receipts, Herbs & Seasonings,” she writes:

The task
for everyone
is to find
a way of being
in one’s own time (10).

In Meditation 2, she writes:

I shed selves
like snakeskins
trying to forget
self trying to melt
into the Self (13).

Ideas like these are not new, yet Ames manages to get to the bones of them. She is a poet who finds the skeletal structure of both simple and complex ideas and draws them to the surface. She does away with extravagance and focuses on the heart of her experiences.

Throughout Reunion, but especially within her poems about self, is an inspiring sense of inner strength and self-reliance, which are cornerstones of many Eastern philosophies. This theme is not surprising when the reader realizes there is a Zen quality to Ames’s poems, specifically the poems similar to those quoted above. The easy connection is gracefully, seemingly unconsciously made, giving Ames’s work an aura of elemental wisdom. It’s clear that Ames is a writer who has spent many years honing her literary skills, casting aside the excess and keeping only the essentials. She is a talented modern writer, and a joy to read.

Emily Braile is an English major with a concentration in creative writing at Endicott College. Over the years she's had relationships with art and theater, but writing has proved to be a constant, understated companion. She hopes to someday be a published poet, and no matter what she does or where she goes, to always have time to write.

No comments:

Post a Comment