Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Compartments: Poems on Nature, Femininity and Other Realms by Carol Smallwood

Compartments: Poems on Nature, Femininity and Other Realms by Carol Smallwood (Paper, $15, ISBN: 978-1-937-53600-8, LCCN: 2011912611, 146 pp, 6x9, August 2011, Anaphora Literary Press)

Review by Dr. Christine Redman-Waldemeyer

If there is one thing that vexes a woman, it is her sewing box. Carol Smallwood is the sorter, a poet who can enter a poem and untangle thread. "The Sewing Box" is only one example of how Carol uses language and listing to empty and separate the compartments of our lives. Paying attention to detail she enters myth and the mundane with the same eye. Echoing in Carol's poem, We Are Told, is "It is Beauty alone that remained in Pandora's Box when she opened it-not Hope as we are told." Both poet and practitioner of this understanding, Carol relocates a spider from a gas station to Queen Anne's lace in her backyard, considers ants and their inherent sense to venture out of their home, takes the risk of comparing the tiny creatures to Lewis and Clark and ventures herself into topics that question our femininity. She pushes back, wags her finger at women concerned with Avon or who have masked their voice as a man, revisits her childhood centering on women's ability to gang up on one another, and enters the house behind the "white picket fence." She flips our trained understanding of violence on women towards an understanding that cancer is just as violent. She never ceases to remind us of the ugliness that pervades society that keeps us from loving our neighbor and even seeps into our relationships with family. In A Need to Know Basis she puts a spotlight on our human instinct to look away. Carol can envy and love what is wild. She can shed light on what is cultivated and domestic where there is rain and gray sky. She does not disappoint and will keep your ear tuned to what is outside your window and what enters.

****Dr. Christine Redman-Waldemeyer, founder and editor of Adanna Literary Journal; author of two books of poetry with Muse-Pie Press

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