Bound Each to Each
By Ann Taylor
Finishing Line Press
Review by Dennis Daly
You don’t often see majesty in miscellany. Ann Taylor’s new collection of poems, Bound Each to Each, proves the exception. Her pieces may come from multiple directions but they bring with them a breadth, intelligence, and an underpinning of mythology that speak to their readers with accomplished and appropriately lofty tones.
Much of this majesty the poet delivers through meditations on place. In her opening poem entitled Horn Pond Taylor compares the gravitas of the pond she views every day from her kitchen window to immortalized bodies of water found in literature. She notices the reduced wonderment in each of her literary lakes as opposed to the strengthening magic in her nearby watery vision. Here begins the history and family lore of what she sees,
It’s the tale of Narragansett Winitihooloo
and Nansema, his Pawtucket Juliet,
or the old ice-cutting (my uncles’ misery),
slicing for the hot world
“crystal blocks of Yankee coolness.”
It’s a newspaper vision of my grandfather
wheeling his famous figure 8’s.
Or cautious skids across this ice
leashed to my headlong Yellow Lab.
Then there are ma’s peanut butter picnics,
My trout reeled in by dad, let go by me,
A first kiss, and the battered pine
Dressed in red berries by my kids…
Taylor mixes exotica of place with laugh out loud humor in her poem Nairobi Track. The humans—she among them—drag race an ostrich on a track in Kenya. The ostrich has clearly been through this before. His delight seems to border on hubris. The poem makes an interesting point about humankind’s opponent and his feathery thrust, or non-thrust. It concludes thusly,
Long legs stretching, claws dinning in,
he seems almost a gangly lope until he
outpaces our mandated 30 MPH, glances
over and back at us as he departs.
All runway, no lift, the only way this fastest
earthly bird feels wind’s course through
billowing white wingfeathers is to run to win,
everything depending on it.
A mother’s primal instinct to protect her young drives Taylor’s title poem Bound Each to Each. For days the poet’s daughter dotes on a nest of robin eggs. When natural forces and predators threaten the new eggs, the mothering daughter resorts to high technology—namely a Nissan Altima to save the day. This brings to the poet’s mind her daughter’s first car and the night it died. Taylor explains,
on a rainy 3 AM highway—
“Mom! My car just stopped!”
On the way there, I hear
in the cellphone background,
the eighteen-wheeler roar,
dread the stranger’s “Can I help you?”
William Wordsworth’s poem Daffodils gets some neat and well-deserved commentary in Taylor’s piece entitled The Daffodils to Wordsworth. The poet describes our communal plight with concern and care as only a spiritual solitary could. Taylor, floating lonely as a cloud over these lines, meditates on tribal comforts. The poem dances to its conclusion here,
Our ancestral species reach
to hundreds of thousands,
so down to our ancient roots
we know only accumulated beauty,
the comfort of numbers,
the bliss that comes with
leaning as others lean.
Taylor turns the table on pretentious artists, their cockeyed fans, and their self-important, presumptuous reviewers (I ought to know) in her poem entitled Portrait of Lisa Gherardini. Mona Lisa’s enigmatic smile curls up with generational disdain the more she sees. The poem opens up like a shotgun blast,
“So foolish,” you seem to be thinking,
Madonna… Mona… Lady Lisa…
looking out at this carnevale of jesters
with raptor noses, pom-pom slippers,
Mickey Mouse ears, Osama beard,
or petting Paris Hilton’s pup.
Dali layers on his own pointy mustache,
Bug eyes, fingers dripping coins.
Among the millions in Eiffel t-shirts
angling for a cell- phone camera shot,
was the carpenter who claimed you for Italy,
the acid attacker, the hurler with the rock
that got your elbow…
At the heart of this chapbook the poem Homecoming offers Taylor’s classic take on Agamemnon’s somewhat unpleasant return to Mycenae after the sack of Troy. The poem, done in counterpoint, reads like a mini play. Cassandra, Agamemnon’s new slave girl, spits out her venomous prophecies in wonderfully crazed fashion. Clueless and arrogant Agamemnon rides his chariot into his wife’s death trap. The understatement builds to a powerful conclusion. I like this poem an awful lot. Here’s a center section of the counterpoint,
“Poor Cassandra’s crazy,”
my family thought, and turned away,
as you do now. You were
too easily deceived by my joy
in your company, blind to me
and my revenge.
Why, my dear, do you point, shout?
Do you laugh or weep?
It’s laughter, dear king,
as I see you trust her smile,
her comforting words
fraught with falsity.
but look, my wife
spreads the carpet wide.
Historic place poems always interest me. Toward the end of this impressive collection Taylor offers us her poem Gallows Hill, Salem. It’s a nifty little piece, perfectly toned. Nature knows the character of the poisoned land that the poet presents to us. Bloody red on white, sumac, redtail, and a robin’s breast on snow drifts, tells the tale. Innocents were damned here on what is forevermore evil ground. The poet says,
A redtail rises against darkening sun,
a hoarse crow tries to call, and an early robin
clings to a bare branch, does not…
Snow squalls smooth granite folded over
like the scroll that named them witches,
named this as the place
to damn them.
Penned grandeur in such a little book— very nicely done!