Issue 4 - Winter 2011
Arranging the Blaze
Beasts and Violins
Eating Fruit Out of Season
Something Must Happen
The Apocalypse Tapestries
The Darkened Temple
The Kingdom of Possibilities
The Tyranny of Milk
This Pagan Heaven
Woman on a Shaky Bridge
You Know Who You Are
Dayle Furlong has presented us with a bouquet of glowing love poems; some transparent, most translucent and a few, opaque. And clinging to each of these vivid flowers, like jeweled insects or diamond dewdrops, are striking images to bring delight even when, occasionally, the sense of the poem escapes us.
Open Slowly. The title suggests the many levels of experience embedded in the text, not accessible to hasty scanning: the slow growth of awareness in childhood; the slow blossoming of adolescent sexuality; the slow opening to adult love; and the slow recognition of the past entangled with the deep foliage of memory.
Characteristic of the first and last is “Past Flesh”, where the author remembers her father:
Her mother, buttoning a sweater:
A teenage infatuation could be the theme of “Romance Brief”:
On a more sinister note, child-molestation is viewed through a child’s eyes in “Say Uncle”:
The word “fingers” informs us that the speaking child had some vague idea of what was happening, but could do no more against adult authority than protect herself.
In an intriguing conceit on calligraphy called “Own Hands, the author is “Tired of gazing down this self-same spot/ the end of a pen” as her writings clamor for fame and attention; “anything to wipe the ink from their faces”. She sits “hunched over, head in palms/ bleeding elsewhere”(not on the paper).
Some of the most sensual of Ms. Furlong’s love poems include:
“Bound”, where we find the lovers in
“Litany of Desire”, where
And “Tangled”, where
Insects, flowers and birds are among Ms. Furlong’s favorite subjects: viz “For All Their Fluttering”; “Flies”; “In the Butterfly Garden”; “In the Hummingbird Garden”; “A Single Pink Rose”; “Lovers Hunched”; “Smoked Out”; “City Sparrows” and “Scattered”.
Other poems evoke people and situations. “You Were Here” captures the taste and feel of competition between young girls for a Tom Sawyer type playmate. “Experiments with the Living” projects and introjects an early sweetheart who, is fantasized into the present.
In “Tonic and Brevity”, the poet contrasts childhood dreams of adulthood: “I’d wear pretty dresses/ and meet men from big cities”; with reality: “free from growing pains in knees/ and the shame of cheap sneakers”.
In Canada, winters are harsh, and spring is the long yearned-for season; several poems reflect this desire. A lovely daguerreotype of the city in deepest winter is etched in “Blue Lips”.
“Bare” describes a tree denuded by winter winds and just such a skeletal tree is transformed into a bride in “The Ceremony” as blizzards spin a snowy nuptial veil over its branches. In “The Thaw”, the speaker and a friend, hoping to urge spring on, sit on a freezing porch.
In “Lazy Eye” thawed puddles on the sidewalk, like “icy eyelids melted”, presage warmth that has not quite arrived.
Among the scattered gems of this collection are gritty, realistic poems that describe people. There’s a poem to a statue; one to a prairie storm and a good many that express the author’s feelings about experiences with friends, lovers and children. All are styled in free verse with strong metric and rhythmic energy. Descriptions are sharply focused and finely detailed. This chapbook is as rewarding as it is challenging, and the challenge greatly enhances the reward.
Reviewed by Martin Abramson.