Monday, January 23, 2017

Poem366: IN BOTH HANDS by Joannie Stangeland

Myth and mystery inform the poems in Joannie Stangeland’s collection In Both Hands (Ravenna Press, 2014). Always, though, the poems are informed by close attention to the natural world.

A good example is found in “Eavesdropping,” where Stangeland writes,

The crow repeats its caw, a circle of sound like the rings of water after the stone drops. Reflections shattered by rhythm. The wind says its name, over and over. The water echoes the sky, copies each cloud, an ellipsis, what’s here, what left. The sun loves its own face, mirrored in every puddle, all the shiny scraps of trash. […]

I appreciate how the intersecting circles of caw, of sun and reflection of sun, operate in synch to create a larger whole, like a fractal pattern incorporated on the page.

This theme, edges giving way to other edges so the whole world becomes seamless, repeats in other poems, such as “Patience Is for Other Creatures.” Here, Stangeland writes, 

Fields blur, smudge
at edges, drift into trees.

Hours pool, spill
over, a flood.

The sun’s last look.

Crows wheel, roost 
in the night’s well,

in shadows buckled 
under my eyes.

I think the effect is a very subtle one, like a drawing in charcoal where edges blend and smudge, and it’s a beautiful effect in a single poem, but especially powerful when it occurs many times over.

In a review, it’s probably belaboring the point, but in the book it’s so powerful, the un-limned world. We see it again in “Palimpsest” (were even the title points to a there/not-thereness.):

Parchment paper sheets
unrolled, sand-colored,
thick and empty.

The ink a night.
My pen drew down,
wanting the lines right.

Each letter kept
its own character,
a different slant.

I recommend this beautiful collection, whose beauties accrue slowly, like cottonwood fluff drifting into a corner, approximating snow.

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