Friday, March 23, 2012

A Perpetual Symphony: Review of Elegy for Everyone by Alfred Nicol

A Perpetual Symphony: Review of Elegy for Everyone

Review By Prema Bangera

Elegy for Everyone
Poems by Alfred Nicol

Prospero’s World Press, Inc.
Flushing, New York

ISBN 978-0-9822028-1-4

Seldom do we find a contemporary collection of poetry which makes us hold our hearts, oozing out raw and pure emotions. However, Alfred Nicol’s Elegy for Everyone does just that, with each poem exposing our everyday honest human expression. The complexity of each poem shadows and mirrors our soul, whether it’s about heartache, nostalgia, whimsical humor, etc. We are transcended into our own minds, facing the words which reflect our own demons, our forgotten smile, and our need for imagination. 

The book opens to a poem reflecting an ancient Greek myth of Artemis and Actaeon, properly titled "Actaeon, After." While reading this poem, we are suddenly captured within Actaeon's body, undergoing his transformation:

No harm has come to me; I am another, not myself.
I might have leapt and fled among the trees. I did as well 
by keeping still. The fleetest deer cannot outrun its senses.
Or how should I unsee what I had seen, or gather in 
what seeing had drawn out from me? My self went out from me.

Now I am the blurred thrum of startled wings, and now
the tremor of a single leaf, the seam of parted air.
At once bereft and blessed with more than everything I had—
to see as in a dream the one I dared not dream to see—
if I were but the shadow of a reed I would be glad.

The beauty in the narrator’s vision is so clear and vivid—we are drawn into the Actaeon’s transcendence.

Similarly, we are lost in quiet and exquisite sorrow of the change which occurs through an altering life in “The Mistress to Herself.” The narrator wonders about this waiting game she has been playing with her lover:

While I am held more tenderly
than I’ve been held by other men,
he does not say a word to me
that he might not take back again.

He’ll keep me on a pedestal
until he puts me on the shelf.
So I can either wait to fall
or I can come down by myself.

I don’t know whether to be sad
by holding on or letting go.
A little love is what I had.
It did not seem a little, though.

We are overcome with the complex hollowness the narrator feels while struggling with the love she carries and that which might be tossed. This poetic monologue transpires into a speech every soul holds, this longing to love and to be loved—this waiting of the inevitable ending of a complicated relationship.

In wandering for this passion, we are awakened to the fear of love—the struggle of its aftermath in “I Go Near Love.” The sheer touch of this passion is longed for, but also dreaded:

I go near love advisedly.
Someone is there, expecting me.
She may not be as mindful, though,
Of consequence we cannot know—
With loss the only certainty.

She pictures love a tranquil sea.
I know how cold its depths may be.
Love is a place I would not go:
I go near love,

Where, looking in her eyes, I see
The soft flame burning quietly,
And my brief wings beat to and fro
About that mesmerizing glow.
Though I may fly I am not free:
I go near love.

Here, it’s evident how haunting the past can be—how anxious we feel in finding and losing any sort of love. The grief of a loss consumes our being.

The mourning of any being in also found in “Elegy for Everyone.” This poem reaps the embodiment of our everyday lives, our everyday song:

It’s best to read the obituaries first.
Wonderful people die most every day,
people you may only in passing
but that was always true of everyone…

It’s best to read the obituaries first,
Before the news and sports. They’re better written.
It comes of knowing rules of composition,
especially Beginning Middle End.
Sister Joan was ninety-nine years old.
Her story’s got a lot of middle to it…

Only human doesn’t get things done,
not the things that matter. Only human
sends a check and gets a calendar.
Only human gets enthusiastic
now and then. It never lasts. So what.
The things that matter always take forever.
Only human hasn’t time for that.

We are in awe of how strangers’ death goes unnoticed and their story is always overlooked. However, this narrator chooses to examine the seldom unexamined mode of nature, knowing that every story has a lot of middle to be told.

In the book, Elegy for Everyone, Alfred Nicol’s poems touch upon every human emotion. When reading any single poem, we are overcome with empathy for the narrator while finding a sense of self within each line. Each poem reveals the truth of the human condition, how every exposed heart carries joyfulness, grief, affection, and failures.

    *****Prema Bangera, a native of India, moved to Massachusetts in 1994. As an avid explorer, she has lived in Bombay, Prague, Boston, Erie, Seattle and visited many other cities. She was named poet of the month by Boston Girl Guide. Her work has been published in Quick Fiction and forthcoming in Ibbetson Street and Bagel Bards Anthtology. She is also pursuing the realms of theater and visual arts.

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