Monday, March 5, 2012

Book Reviews: Number one in a Series

Over the past few weeks it has been a real pleasure to buy books.  I have been extremely fortunate in my purchasing choices, and I want to share my good fortune with you by telling you about four of the books I have bought.  For some of you the names will be quite familiar, and maybe a name or two will be new, but I can say with all confidence, all four of these books are worth your money and time.

The four books are (in the order I read them):

Wearing Heals in the Rust Belt, by Karen J. Weyant
Vine River Hermitage, by F. Daniel Rzciznek
The Sounding Machine, by Patty Paine
Animal Eye, by Paisley Rekdal
Because I want to give each review the spotlight, I will be writing and publishing each new review every few days.  I feel if I bury them together, not enough focus will be placed on these books and none will receive the attention they deserve.

* * *

Wearing Heels in the Rust Belt
Karen J. Weyant
40pp., Main Street Rag
ISBN 978-1-59948-343-6

In Karen Weyant’s fine chapbook, the reader is treated to a kind of landscape poetry which is at its best, a hybrid combining the very real world of the title-implied rust belt and the emotional landscape of the author’s youth.  Weyant pulled me in with descriptions of a world caught somewhere between the rural and the urban.  The poems describe a town small enough to find itself on the cusp of losing some essential part of its identity.  In fact, this book, helps give me a better definition of the Rust Belt: A rural community or sensibility trapped within an industrialized landscape, still adolescent, still unsure of its urban identity.

Karen proclaims herself a country girl, and at each turn, these poems reveal she is confronted with learning something new about her world.  In the poem "Blood Moon” she learns about religious hyperbole.  In “Buck Season” she encounters the hunt and through her sister vicariously touches death. In “Why I stopped collecting Bees” she discovers puberty and begins a process of growth.

Taking this theme of discovery, Weyant talks of experiences before she can define them.  In the poem, “Landscape with Cold Scarecrow,” she talks of the, subliminal danger of unrequited love.  Speaking of a would-be suitor to her friend, Weyant states:

                        But we weren't afraid.
We were country girls who carried penknives
in our pockets for protection, kept
our fingernails long.  Stalking, we
would call it now, But back  then,
we wouldn’t have known that word.

Over and again, the poems in this collection mark the exact moments when a young girl becomes aware of new truths.  One by one, these stories are recounted and the reader ends up learning from the poems not only how to define the idea of 'Rust Belt' but also to use the poems to reawaken the touchstones of his or her own growth.

I can recommend these poems not just because they define place.  That is part of American poetry and any good poet takes time to do that.  What drives me to say good things about these poems is Wyeant’s ability to make me care about the people in her poems.  Whether it is the narrator, or those who seem to be antagonists, I care deeply about the people of the poet’s world.  Every poem makes me want to linger and start conversations with them, ask for their side of the story.

I admire the precision of these poems.  Every poem contributes a necessary picture, an essential fragment to the narrative. If there is something missing in this book, I certainly do not feel its absence.  In Wearing Heels in the Rust Belt, Weyant does the reader justice and serves the corm of the chapbook a great service.  There is specific purpose in these poems,unity, and because of them I am able to see and ultimately feel even more of the world.  I know these poems can do the same for you if you give them a chance.

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