Monday, March 15, 2010

What I'm Reading: My Father's Kites



49ยบ ~ sun, albeit at an apparently regressive angle due to {*!@*%@**} Daylight Savings Time

Frequent readers of this blog are probably aware of my great poet love for Allison Joseph, given all of her support for my work, publishing me in Crab Orchard and inviting me to serve as judge for a past contest. Now, there are a lot of books just coming out that I've got a thirst to read, but I put a moratorium on buying books until 2 things happen: 1) I whittle away the stack I still have waiting to be read and 2) I get back from AWP and see what treasures I find there. However, with Allison's new book, My Father's Kites, I broke my own rules. This is the second book I've read published by Steel Toe Books, and they are quickly gaining my admiration (Prairie Fever being the other.)

My Father's Kites is a beautiful, elegiac collection that seeks to uncover the often difficult relationship between a father and his daughter, the speaker of the poems. This difficult relationship is seen through the lens of the father's death, although the poems touch on the speaker's entire life with and without her father. In the shadows, there waits the figure of the mother who died years earlier, adding to the depth of the speaker's losses. Nearly all of the poems are formal, including villanelles, pantoums, and sonnets. In fact, the entire middle section of the book is a set of 34 sonnets. As someone who rarely practices formal poetry, I'm amazed at how Allison Joseph weaves the delicacy of the sonnet through the heavy subject matter of death. Often the rhymes are subtle and surprising, which is always a delight in formal poetry. Aside from the formal patterns repeated in the book, there is also the repeated image of the kites the speaker's father used to make for her. That levitating yet tied to earth image is such a profound metaphor for the parent-child relationship, yet it works itself gently through the book and avoids overwhelming the reader with bluntness.

In fact, here's the opening of the title poem.

My Father's Kites

were crude assemblages of paper sacks and twine,
amalgams of pilfered string and whittled sticks,
twigs pulled straight from his garden, dry patch

of stony land before our house only he
could tend into beauty, thorny roses goaded
into color.


And, here's the end of one of my favorite sonnets.

Countrymen

.................................. They say
he loved his girls, that he was proud
of all his daughters had become. I don't
reply, just not my head. I'm here to play
the role of grieving child who's not allowed
to speak of memory's truth when others won't.



Supp
ort a Poet/Poetry: Buy or Borrow this Book Today
My Father's Kites
Allison Joseph
Steel Toe Books, 2010

2 comments:

Justin Hamm said...

I'm also loving My Father's Kites, as I do all of Allison's poetry. It really gets at some interesting aspects of the father/daughter relationship, and I'm learning a lot about form from reading it, too.

Garrison Keillor read one of the poems from the collection here, and I enjoyed hearing it:

http://writersalmanac.publicradio.org/index.php?date=2010/03/09

Sandy Longhorn said...

J., thanks for the link!