I spent the day visiting Dad at the hospital with my mother and sister and kicking around end-of-life care scenarios. He went to the hospital again Tuesday with pneumonia from aspirating food. He forgets he’s supposed to be on thick liquids and pureed food and insisted on soup and coffee. Boom.
This is what I had time to write this week, so this is my column. It’s a review of my Gather colleague and a very fine poet whom you all know, Barbary Chaapel. Use it as an lesson in writing a book review, such as it is. Or try emulating one of Barbary’s pieces; imitation—not plagiarizing, but trying to capture an author’s style and genius—is a very good exercise. Or try one of the prompts at the bottom.
Barbary Chaapel is a sojourner. The West Virginia poet spent eight years living on a boat and sailing the Caribbean, and once crossed paths with Janis Joplin and Jerry Garcia. She is a resident poet at Gather.com and an active member of the writers community there. Chaapel has two previous chapbooks and a memoir of her seafaring days to her credit, and now she has released her third chapbook of poetry:Bog Woman: A Mythic Journey. Comprising her collected poems from 2008-2012, Bog Woman shows Chaapel to be a versatile poet, a keen observer of nature as well as a courageous feminist storyteller, and a lover of the language.
In this excerpt from the cycle “A Quartet of Seasons,” finely-crafted imagism waxes metaphysical. This is the art of poetry: Chaapel builds a compelling case, poetically speaking, using beautiful, concrete imagery, and thus the subsequent intimation of the divine becomes utterly convincing.
The hills glisten, a green-waxed summer.
In the old shed I find a wooden nesting box,
Conjure smooth brown eggs once gathered
Into children's shirttails for their breakfast.
That same straw, old-yellow, feeds
My virgin garden left unseeded
All these years, waiting for my love.
I am looking at God
As I drop seed corn into the furrows.
Green is a place in my heart,
At the far other end of the spectrum, from the cycle “Ways of Being,” Chaapel gives us an unflinching glimpse into a woman’s experience in the waiting room of an abortion clinic:
She imagines how it might be -
The first-ever flutter,
A soft-mouthed fox carrying an egg from her nest -
So ignorant, she invites death.
When she steps into the waiting room
She looks around at the other women.
Each contained, zipped-up.
It is Sunday morning, for God’s sake.
- Mary, full of woe, blessed be thy womb -
Then it is her turn.
There is a wild bird -
My God, it sings at the oddest times
And it tries so hard to fly away from the pain.
Feathers brush against vital knowledge -
That she will run a thousand years and still remember.
The metaphor of the fox stealing the egg from the nest is unspeakably exquisite. In lesser hands, this scene would quickly become maudlin. Once again, this is the art of poetry.
The volume also features a goodly smattering of whimsy. Two poems feature a pet cemetery; in one of those, a boisterous hound dog chooses a succession of headstones as sunning spots. In another, two old men unzip their flies and compare…catheters. Another poem cycle called “Sorcery Of Scent” puts one in mind of Wallace Stevens:
cedar, musk, bergamot, orange, jasmine, sandalwood, vanilla
She follows him into his tangled heart
He tries to follow her.
She's discovered poetry.
He is bewildered.
She has changed scent.
What holds this variety of work together is Chaapel’s craft, her pastoral imagery which is always keen, never tired, and her masterly love of language. I had to look up judder, louring, qualia, and volar. And I’m a word geek! This is one of the obligations of a good reader and one of the rewards of reading a fine poet. (Being a crossword nut, I did not have to look up aril…) And like all fine poets, when she can’t find the word she wants, she makes one up: colding, jing-jingle, stut-stutt , pock and burble…)
Like Yeats, Barbary Chaapel's diction is almost as rewarding as her visual imagery. It’s a rare pleasure to read an independent poet with so much to say and so much skill to say it with.
Bog Woman: A Mythic Journey is available in soft cover at http://raidoventures.us/ .
In prose or poetry, write about journey.
- Your personal journey
- An actual journey you have taken
- A mythical journey
- A literary journey (write a book review)
- No posts about Journey, the band
- Put SunWE in the title and tags.
- Share your post with Gather Writing Essential group.
- Indicate in some way which devices or techniques I should be paying attention to. (If responding to today’s, put Journey in the title field.)
- This prompt does not turn into a pumpkin a week (or even two) from today. If your piece isn’t done in the next week or two, get it in when you can. This is supposed to be fun.
- I will comment on every submission and include a link to it in the next column.
Responses to previous prompts below. Let me know if I missed yours.
by Angela A.
by Benita K.
by Kerry Dexter
>> SunWinks! Index <<
© 2013 Douglas J. Westberg. All Rights Reserved. Please share this on Gather.com, and elsewhere on the web by means of a link back to this page, but please do not copy. Doug's latest book is The Depressed Guy's Book of Wisdom from Chipmunka Publishing.
Doug's Gather Group is Depression and Creativity, devoted to creative writing about depression and related illnesses, and creative writing as therapy. Please consider joining. You can read more of Doug's posts there, or here.