Tuesday, January 01, 2013

The Refrain By Anne Whitehouse

The Refrain
By Anne Whitehouse
Dos Madres Press, 2012
Perfect bound
99 pages

 Review by Pam Rosenblatt

Anne Whitehouse’s The Refrain was published by Dos Madres Press, Loveland, Ohio, in November 2012.

In this 99 page book, Whitehouse writes of aging; death; art; music; writing; dreams; nature; animals; birds;  gardening;  seasons; relationships between wife and husband, mother and daughter, bride and groom, friends; and more. And she relates these topics to changes and choices she - or one - has in life, love, relationships, etc.
With articulate description and imagery, Whitehouse’s poems have unique insights. The Refrain is basically about Whitehouse’s life, as she writes:

The Story of My Life

I tried to write the story of my life
Without knowing what it was.
Its truth grew inside me gradually
Like my own child
That I had to give birth to
To know.

The first night I dreamed
We left our river-view apartment
For smaller place
In better building.
Dark and enclosed.
It faced inward.
I’d lost my view.
And I was unhappy.

The second night I dreamed
We lived in a house underwater
And a shark broke through,
Nosing its way in
Under the glass wall.
It faced me head-on,
Its teeth were terrible,
And with it came the sea.

But you pulled it back by the tail.
Singlehandedly, you forced it
Out of the house
And resealed the wall,
Keeping out the rushing water.

Still we knew
The shark would try again,
And we must keep watch.

Whitehouse lets us into her life once again in:

Rites of Spring


Waking up slowly
I see visions.
Outside the window,
young wisteria branches
yearn upward like sea plants
seeking the light.

This is my life:
finding one thing in another.


The May rain dripped off the tender leaves
Of the apple tree just budding white
And glistened on the thin needles
Of the clipped yew hedge
Planned next to the railing
Of the stairs leading to the bathroom
Outside the Red Rooster.
Late at night,
A robin surprised  us
Hurling out the hedge
And perching on the tree.

Meaning to misguide us,
It led us straight to the nest
Fastened securely
To intersecting branches
In cunning nook
Just inside the hedge.

The hard smooth surface
Of its hollowed-out hemisphere
Enclosed three eggs,
Small and perfect formed,
The  color of heaven.

    Whitehouse also has the ability to distance herself from a scene in her poetry, as evident in

Dancing in Water
                for Eiko and Koma

A frame of driftwood
in the current’s ebb and flow—
clinging to the frame,
the dancers, stiff as driftwood,
curve slowly into stones
while water runs over
their stilled forms.

In time  they come  alive,
are rippling reeds,
swaying stem and buried root,
variously wind, tree,
flower, naked breath
that swells behind
the push to  give birth.

The dancers are in the river,
the dance is in the river,
the dance is the river.

From outside in I found this story:
she almost died,
and he brought her back to life.

Dried leaves, discarded and scattered—
let them go; new ones will grow.
A cricket perched on a twig,
graceful and humorous
at the close.

The Refrain is a good read, especially for those “Haunted by a phrase in a song,/the sequence of notes rising,/falling, rising, falling/a nuanced refrain/like flowing water,” as written in Whitehouse’s concluding poem titled “The Refrain”.

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