Poetry Reviews

I’d like to start doing a one or two small posts a week to talk about the poems I’m reading and what I like about them.

This week, I’ve been reading through poems in the spring 2015 issue of Watershed Review. I was especially impressed with Ellene Glenn Moore’s poems “While You Were Out” and “Walking Home in Mid-morning Traffic.” These poems exhibit some of my favorite qualities of poetry: surprising combinations of language, unique comparisons, and unusual line breaks that make an intrinsic sense as they follow turns of thought or chains of images. These poems are bright, senses-singing moments, stories of a feeling playing out through a period of time, a bubble of thought caught on the water: lasting just long enough to get a good look at it, enjoy it, and then it’s gone.

In “While You Were Out,” I love the “pennies ringing in the / foundation like bright bells” of the opening. “I looked for you pressed in rings of cedar, splinters of pine, bark twisting / like ropes of water in a creek swollen with summer” is a beautiful description that caught me up and had me admiring both the scene painted and the language used to capture it. And then the next line had me smiling at the twist in direction and tone: “Effulgent, really. I looked it up.” This poem is delightfully unexpected and compelling all the way to its striking final image: “I admit / I looked as bewildered as a bottle waiting for lips.” If I kept a list of lines I wish I’d written, that would definitely be on it.

In “Walking Home In Mid-morning Traffic,” the lines play themselves out like streaks of sunlight and shadows, winding between sights and sounds and thoughts. Moore’s use of hyphens and indentation physically play out the experience of walking along the street and seeing the sun and the braking car, feeling the heat and smelling the exhaust. I like the way some short lines bookend sets of experience: “child in the sun” and “his latent frown,” “I want to scorch” and “the morning growls.” And as in the previous poem, she ends with a striking image, in this case wilting peonies: “They peel themselves apart like stockings silking down a leg // undress themselves under the sun’s broad eye.” I’m almost always a fan of nouns being turned into verbs, and “silking” is a satisfying example of that.

I enjoyed both of these poems, and will probably be looking for more of her work.


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