Wednesday, October 05, 2011

Review of MUD SEASON, by Pamela Annas

Review of MUD SEASON, by Pamela Annas, Cervena Barva Press, PO Box 440357, West Somerville, MA 02144-3222,, 41 pages, $7, 2011

Review by Barbara Bialick, author of TIME LEAVES

MUD SEASON is an elegantly written chapbook that comes out when the author is nearing retirement—and deserves a wider audience in the military, civilian and literary realms. It’s written by a professor and associate dean of UMass-Boston who has previously written about poetry, but in a more academic sense. She is hereby encouraged to take off from this selection from her worldly childhood up through when she became a mother and an academic and began to work for peace and feminism. Just saying traveling with her “Navy” family is not enough. What specifically was she building on, let alone rebelling against, if anything, from that? We don’t know. What we do know is she writes about her experiences from one city to the next in imagistic detail, one word picture after another, until each poem is a succinct block of beautiful language by a world traveler.

One example of her style is the poem “Talking With Trees”. She writes, “For years at a time I forget/the slow liquid language of trees, touch talk of fingers caressed by bark./…This morning…/I stopped to put my hands one on each side/of a weathered spruce and felt its delicate/meditation of sap and water/a language of vowels mostly/though the occasional sharp crack/of a consonant throbbed into my skin/…I..then walked on, hands on fire.”

This was written by a “Navy Brat” who grew up with “saluting in the family car/prefab green housing/trampled dirt of the playground/Armed Forces Day—cotton candy/and climbing on tanks:/It’s a hell of a note/when you’ve spent your life/teaching peace…”

Her memorial poem to her father is well-done, dense with word pictures. Called “After the Fact” (for F.A., 1923-1989), it begins “My father’s eyes were bitter chocolate/my legacy thick Greek hair that Sappho/might have braided with rosemary/and sweet clover, childhood on the slope/of a smoldering volcano. Still the savor--/fava beans in olive oil, dark bread, thick coffee, blackberries and yoghurt on the balcony/of a hotel near the grand bazaar…/Dolphins leap/in the wake of the ferry to Istanbul…”

In her Bio, Annas writes that “She singlehandedly raised a child who’s now in college and is herself a professor and associate dean at University of Massachusetts, Boston.”

She is also a member of the editorial collective of the THE RADICAL TEACHER, author of a DISTURBANCE IN MIRRORS: THE POETRY OF SYLVIA PLATH and co-author of two textbook/anthologies, LITERATURE AND SOCIETY and AGAINST THE CURRENT. She “looks forward to taking up blues harp in her retirement…”

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