Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Something to Exchange. Celia Gilbert.

Something to Exchange. Celia Gilbert. (Blaze Vox Books Buffalo, NY http://blazevox.org)

Celia Gilbert’s new book of poetry “Something To Exchange” speaks to those who have been around the block once, twice and thrice. And for younger folks, take note: these poems will be sure to sucker punch you along this roller coaster ride we call “life’

Gilbert is a printmaker and painter as well as a poet and maintains a studio in Somerville, Mass. An accomplished poet, she has published three collections, and is the winner of an Emily Dickinson Award and a Pushcart Prize. Her poetry has appeared in Poetry, Southwest Review, and many other prestigious journals.

In the poem “You Ask: Are You My Daughter?” a grown daughter confronts the sight of her elderly and infirm mother strapped to a chair, which brings on an accomplished meditation on mutual love and disappointment, with an unflinching eye to the ravages of time:

The lips pout as the skin sags—a look of disapproval
I never saw in my childhood. Hard not to shrink back
and think you don’t love me but you do,
or did. The one tied into your chair
doesn’t know me now, your precious only daughter
who grew up fearful of all physical danger lest in hurting myself
I wound you. This disappointed face
Seems to say you’re not what I wanted, not what I meant.
Now I am a memory, and you are a memory too.

“Father in His Summer Suit” brings me back to my own, late father, resplendent in his summer Seersucker, off the train from the canyons of Madison Ave, a New York Post under his arm, and his requisite cocktail hour breath. Gilbert’s memory of her dad is decidedly more pastoral, but searing none-the-less:

“ Home from work, Father, in his summer suit, / comes down the country lane.
Honeysuckle spills over the hedges. /He takes a blossom and nips the foot/
of its open-mouthed trumpet, /Letting me taste one translucent drop…. /All summer I tippled, drunk /on the connection to people long ago/who foraged in the wild—
A\and to my wild father—/So newly discovered.”

---- Highly Recommended

Doug Holder/ Ibbetson Update/ Somerville, Mass./ June 2009

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