I did go ahead and start with Marie Gauthier's chapbook today: Hunger All Inside. Only recently have I grown to see how wonderful chapbooks can be. In a short sitting, I can fully immerse myself in one poet's work. The risk of interruption lessens and the ability to pause and re-read increases because of the limited number of poems.
Hunger All Inside is a poignant, yet unsentimental, collection of mother and lover poems. Many of the poems feature the speaker's interaction with her young son; others with her lover. Set in Massachusetts, the inclusion of the New England landscape provides a subtle subplot that comments on the main focus of human interactions.
One poem in particular stands out as more focused on the landscape than the humans in it: "Spring Pleiades." It is written in seven sections, of course. My favorite section is the second. Here it is in its entirety:
Manacles of ice broken,
mice nose about the clotted
meltwater, fields of early
meadow-rue and matted grass
moored by the bog. They dream a
memory of apples, wheat,
mulled heat of the late day sun.
Several of the poems deal with the fears that are born of mothering, the fears of what could happen to the child should the mother lose focus. "Gravity" is one of my favorites of these. It contains the following lines to describe the way a mother grabs on to her toddler's shirt, lest he fall: "Looping two fingers / around the collar of his shirt, / tether of tendon and bone... ." I love the image here of the extension of the body connection that is lost at birth.
Finally, I'll leave you with the ending of the last poem in the book "Summer, the air," which describes the toddler's blue popsicle-stained mouth as:
flowering in long spikes
blue as the bucket
and rocks blue
as the sky leaching light
blue ice to salute
the end of winter's
long death to hail
the hot stalled days of summer.
(Apologies to Gauthier here. I couldn't get the lines to indent correctly. If anyone knows how to do that in HTML, please let me know. In essence, I need some tabs.)
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Hunger All Inside
Finishing Line Press, 2009