Sunday, August 07, 2011
Forced Continuities by Miriam Walsh
Reviewed by Adrienne Drobnies
My first reaction to this book is either that the continuities are too forced, or not forced enough. On the one hand, it seems a journal of everything that cropped up in the poet’s mind, and interesting as much of that is, much of it also felt superfluous and inadequately revised. On the other hand, the seeming need for the poet to document everything in her experience made the poetry seem too forced, as though no random thought could go unrecorded. Nonetheless, there is a sense of abundance or plenitude to the book, some original language, and some great titles: “mating ritual,” “optivore,” “decoherence,” “lazuline,” “utopiaries.” The references to mathematical and scientific phenomena were engaging elements to the work (e.g., “Wigner’s Friend” – recalling a thought experiment by Schrodinger involving his hypothetical cat and friend, the collapse of the wave function in quantum mechanics, and the mind-body problem):
plays as fireflies
and my hairs
stand in reverence
to their electricity
against the night.”
I would prefer though that she use language that refers more precisely to the firefly’s bioluminescence rather than use what seems like an unconsidered word: “electricity.”
There are some nice images in the work, e.g.,“umbrella lidded eyes.”
I am most attracted to the poems that stress the link between personal emotional and universal experiences of wonder.
my hand upon your chest
to the rhythm there…
my lips pressing
upon your temple
I found a place
The author is also a visual artist, and the interesting cover and arrangement of the words on the page attest to her skill. The hallucinogenic quality of the cover reflects a similar tone in the poetry. There is, however, too much exhortation and philosophizing for my tastes. The title poem on the back cover says:
“The moment comes and we must follow, though it makes no guarantee that those that follow will be any easier. For all our poetry and hope, sometimes life is just forced continuity.” There is much to enjoy, some to dazzle, but too much of the forced for me in Walsh’s book.
***Adrienne Drobnies received her doctorate in chemistry from the University of California, Berkeley and now work as a research project manager at the Genome Sciences Centre of the British Columbia Cancer Agency. Her poetry has appeared in Canadian literary magazines, including Scrivener, NeWest Review, Waves, Poetry Canada Review, Poetry Toronto. Some of my poems have been included in anthologies New Voices (Mosaic Press 1984), From Sinai to the Shtetl and Beyond: Where is Home for the Jewish Writer? (Hamilton Jewish Literary Festival 2009), and emerge (Simon Fraser University Writer’s Studio 2009).