Showing 61 - 70 of 131 annotations in the genre "Collection (Poems)"

How Do You Feel?

Emmott, Kirsten

Last Updated: Jan-24-2005
Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Collection (Poems)

Summary:

This collection by the Canadian physician-poet Kirsten Emmott includes poems on a wide range of medical topics, focusing on the physician's personal and professional growth, and the patient's experience as seen through the physician's eyes. Many of the poems deal with pregnancy, childbirth, and women's health issues. (104 pages)

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Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Collection (Poems)

Summary:

This selection of Miroslav Holub's poems is organized around five major topics--genealogy, anthropology, semiology, pathology, and tautology--rather than chronologically. The poems, some of which date back to his first collection in 1958, were translated into English by a number of different persons, but mostly by David Young, who has had a long-term collaboration with Holub.

Holub states his major preoccupation in "Bones," the very first poem in this collection: "We seek / a backbone / that will stay / straight." (p. 13) The search reaches its fullest expression in "Interferon," a long poem about messages, messengers, and interference: "Cells infected by a virus / send signals out . . .

And when a poet dies, deep in the night / a long black bird wakes up in the thicket / and sings for all it's worth." (p.159) The first step in the search is to learn to interpret the signals, and to understand the black bird's song. To do that, one has to ask questions. Yet, in the face of enormous "Suffering," we are drawn to passivity: "But I ask no questions, / no one asks any questions, / because it's all quite useless." (p. 147) How to overcome the inertia and proceed, even in the face of likely failure?

Holub reminds us that even "In the Microscope" we find "cells, fighters / who lay down their lives / for a song." (p. 149) In fact, there may be something worth fighting for, although perhaps we can only see it under extreme circumstances, as in "Crush Syndrome," where a concrete mixer snaps up the hand of a man cleaning it: "The finger bones / said a few things you don't hear very often...In that moment / I realized I had a soul." (p. 174). But perhaps what we call the soul is really just our deep yearning to survive, as in "Heart Transplant": "It's like a model of a battlefield / where Life and Spirit / have been fighting / and both have won." (p. 179)

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Creeping Thyme

Pies, Ronald

Last Updated: Oct-11-2004
Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Collection (Poems)

Summary:

"Spell Check for a Malformed Fetus" (p. 1) sets the stage for some of the important themes in this collection by poet-psychiatrist, Ronald Pies. First, the lack of honest language to express life’s "mistakes" and disappointments. Our attempt to disguise the pain by using easy, but inaccurate, words. And finally, an expression of hope, even if only in the world of imagination: "if only / in your first fission / some godly processor / had blessed / your blighted genes."

Some of these poems emerge from relationships with patients, notably "Consultation Request" (p. 35), "Three Patients" (pp. 37-39), "Prolapse of the Uterus" (p.76), and "Congestive Heart Failure" (p. 85). "Smoke, Lilac, Lemon" (p. 45) evokes a fascinating test apparently used by some clinicians to distinguish depression from Alzheimer’s disease on the basis of olfactory function. The four "Alzheimer Sonnets" (pp. 87-88) tackle the difficult task of expressing the experience of dementia from the patient’s point of view.

Many of the other poems deal with love, memory, loss, and pain in the context of family and intimate relationships. Among the best of these are: the title poem (p.3), "Sitting Shivah" (pp. 14-15), "Riding Down Dark" (p. 16), "Visitant" (pp. 41-43), and "Migrations" (pp. 64-69).

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Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Collection (Poems)

Summary:

This is a remarkable collection of poems about the Holocaust by a poet who himself survived horrific abuse during his childhood and adolescence (see The Endless Search: A Memoir in this database). "He had in mind a thousand year Reich," Ray writes (p. 16), but it has become "the thousand year Kaddish." But the grief of the Holocaust has begun to move away from us after only 60 years, and we turn our backs on continuing atrocity and death, the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia, for example, (p.22) and the Death Squads of South America.

While the author was a small boy in Mingo, Oklahoma, "Dr. Mengele was cutting girls in half, twins." (p. 28) This evil remains in the world. Ray celebrates the survivors and acknowledges the very real grief that exists in the world, but he also understands that evil is an inextricable dimension of human nature. In the words Ray attributes to Adolf Eichmann just before he was hanged, "Your world is full of me, I am all over the place . . . and whether you like it or not, what I have done will be done." (pp. 66-67)

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The Uses of Imperfection

McMahon, Ted

Last Updated: Jul-26-2004
Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Collection (Poems)

Summary:

In "Breakdown" the narrator watches the bikers ahead of him glide effortlessly up the long hill. Halfway up, he downshifts, cranks hard, and eventually--stops. "Then dismount / and walk. At the crest / the road stretches flat, narrows out of sight. No bikes, no cars, no sound." (p. 18) This lonely moment embodies two aspects of Ted McMahon's poetry.

First, he acknowledges his (our) limited ability to live up to expectation, achieve the sought-after goal, or understand what is really happening in life. As in "Amniocentesis" (p. 15), we may convince ourselves that we are "prepared to embrace a life of sacrifice," but when finally confronted with the reality (e.g. a Down's syndrome baby), we lose our bearings and grow silent. What seems a sure ticket to happiness--for example, the "snug white Levis" woman who shares her heart with you at a "Writers' Conference" (p. 33)--turns out to be a false alarm: "I stood alone, / controlled, on twilight grass, observed / a fly, quivering in a web."

However, McMahon touches these moments of imperfection, not with explanations or suggestions for improvement, but with profound compassion. In "Satchitananda" (p. 49) he discovers the attributes of the Hindu God (being, awareness, and bliss) residing in the most ordinary daily activities. He stops his truck on a windy plain and reflects: "I'll settle to have sparked / a single flash of joy, to have erased / a single line of sorrow." (p. 48)

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Annotated by:
Ratzan, Richard M.

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Collection (Poems)

Summary:

Written in 1896 and originally a collection of poems that seemed destined to go out of print forever, A Shropshire Lad comprises 63 individual poems of varying meter and length, all dealing with the themes of adolescence, the rustic countryside of Shropshire, and premature death, usually by violence, war, e.g., I, III, IV, XXXV, LVI; homicide, e.g., VIII, XXV?; suicide, e.g., XVI, XLIV, XLV, LIII, LXI; and state execution by hanging, e.g., IX, XLVII. There are the deaths of young lovers (XI, XXVII), young soldiers (see war and XXIII, perhaps), young revelers (XLIX) and young athletes (XIX). The living and dying and, most of all, the remembering occurs in the pastoral setting of Shropshire.

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Annotated by:
McEntyre, Marilyn

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Collection (Poems)

Summary:

For those who have enjoyed his previous collections, this edition of new and collected poems (22 new, the rest culled from collections published from 1972-1998) will be a welcome and rich sampling of Stone's work, wide-ranging in style and subject. The three sections of new poems include a series about incidents in Serenity Gardens, his mother's nursing home; a series of "Reflections from the Middle East" that chronicle moments evocative of classical and biblical story and ethos as well as touching, comic incidents in the life of a 60-something tourist; and a short series of poems based on memories from childhood and young adulthood.

The poems tend toward narrative; many are little stories complete with plot in one to two pages of short lines; Stone's gifts for both chronicle and condensation give many of the poems a lively tension: what is told suggests how much isn't.

As a collection it is possible here to trace the stylistic development from the early poems in The Smell of Matches with their strong autobiographical focus and sense of intimate scene and situation to the recent ones, still strongly personal, but reflective, sometimes ironic, with lines that render the self-awareness of the older poet in sometimes comic flashes.

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Song and Dance

Shapiro, Alan

Last Updated: Jun-30-2004
Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Collection (Poems)

Summary:

In this collection of poems, Alan Shapiro looks unflinchingly at his brother David’s illness and death from brain cancer in 1998. David was an actor and a "song and dance" man on Broadway, hence the title and the frequent allusion to songs and show business. The poems trace an arc from the two boys’ childhood, when they dance together lip-syncing to Ethel Merman’s "There’s No Business Like Show Business" ("Everything the Traffic Will Allow," p. 1) through the diagnosis of brain tumor ("Sleet," p. 8) to the poet’s "Last Impressions" after his brother’s death (p. 57).

The everyday, ordinary world bursts its seams as the poet sits in a radiology waiting room waiting for his brother to return from his "Scan" (p. 10) The poet tries to watch a basketball game on TV, but "soon as my brother’s name / was called" a woman sitting next to him begins to tell the story of her husband, who has turned into "a well trained zombie." Soon his brother David moves toward zombie-hood as well. In "The Phone Call" (p. 23), he listens to "the mangled speech, aphasic / pratfalls halfway through the / sentences . . . " that tells him "you can’t imagine it at all."

But brain damage doesn’t mean the loss of wisdom. In "The Last Scene" (p. 33) the poet sits beside his dying brother, who bestirs himself from somnolence to ask, "Do you think / you have a / problem?" "Look at yourself," he says, "how you sit here / drinking all alone."

David dies without missing a beat, according to the script, but his brother loses his place in the text; he simply doesn’t know his lines. In the beautiful "Broadway Revival" (p. 43), he concludes, "I play / the brother / who doesn’t know his lines, / and you the actor / who waits there in the wings, / who holds the script, / who knows it all / by heart and / will not say."

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One of Everything

Fisher, Diane Gilliam

Last Updated: May-27-2004
Annotated by:
Davis, Cortney

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Collection (Poems)

Summary:

One of Everything is vol. 54 of the Cleveland Poets Series, and author Fisher's voice and subject matter are, for the most part, rich with the language and imagery of blue-collar, mid-Western, and Southern life experiences. A strong introductory poem, "The Way Home to West Virginia," introduces some of the collection's themes: how the truth of a family--abuse, rape, hard work--might be hidden behind a veneer of gentility and religion; how poems, with their sometimes harsh messages might also be made to appear orderly; and how, for this poet, the "way home" includes looking squarely at "History, signs, salvation: things that hurt."

The poems in each of the book's three sections are excellent, made unique by the writer's intimate and colloquial voice. But, for me, the most amazing poems are the last eleven in the book, as if the poet couldn't bring herself to speak of her daughter Sarah's cystic fibrosis. This illness becomes chief among those "things that hurt" and redefine a family.

The first of these poems is "Story Problem," which introduces the daughter who, at twelve, is already doing the math, figuring out that "going by what / she's been through" she should be at least fourteen. In "Overnight," the poet-narrator cleans up after her daughter and an overnight friend who've been cooking and made a floury mess. Anger and silence reign, and the white flour in the daughter's hair becomes a portent of age, illness, disappearance.

"In Her Hospital Room" is the first to name the illness discovered when Sarah was seven months old. This poem recalls the new diagnosis, the new grief, "how unformed it was," implying that, in poetry, the author might attempt a way to pin down and examine her child's disease.

The illness becomes, in some ways, a sacred connection between mother and daughter. In "Permanent at Ruth Ann's," the beauty operator says to another customer that Sarah "don't want to be coming here. . . for the next forty years." The mother notices the shine in Sarah's eyes--tears or humor?--when she replies "Oh, yes I do." Both daughter and mother know that forty years, for Sarah, might be a miracle.

In "The Sweat Chloride Test Is One Hundred Percent Accurate and Cystic Fibrosis Is One Hundred Percent Fatal," the poet recalls the stunning confirmation of the diagnosis, how it came from a doctor chosen because she was a mother, because "she was from Texas / so her voice sounded a little like home," recalling the poet's family home, one that also hid abuse and threat behind a country accent. A lovely short poem, "Sixty-Five Roses," is a play off the "misnaming, the alias" of cystic fibrosis.

"How I Decided Not to Write a Sestina About Cystic Fibrosis" is a masterful look at how words define and confine us, how something like the story of a daughter's illness might be too big for any received form to contain but must be, like a poem, allowed to unfold organically. The poem looks at misunderstood words, important words, and the significance of last words, which in this poem is "cry." "CF Clinic, Children's Hospital," is a luminous poem that captures both the beauty and horror of suffering in memorable images and language. "Unknown Caller" is a found poem, copied from the automated appointment reminder that appeared on the author's answering machine, ending "To make a change, please press 2."

The two last poems in the collection don't attempt to make a change but to accept and mourn what is. "Crescendo, Decrescendo" compares coughing fits, the "quivering breath" of Sarah's violin playing, and the mother's cry, like Sarah's newborn cry when "they went ahead and cut the cord." The final poem, "How It Is," focuses on the reality of the daughter's body and her prognosis, how the mother longs to rock the now-grown woman as she did the baby, a rocking "not so different from the keening of grief."

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Petrushkin!

Charach, Ron

Last Updated: Apr-27-2004
Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Collection (Poems)

Summary:

Save me / from love affairs / with the pale-green neutral cast of money. / Give me the hue and cry / of words! ("Lime Green") In these poems Ron Charach's love affairs with words are warm, poignant, witty, and wise--none of them have that "neutral cast of money." The poet's topics range from childhood and adolescent experiences to poetry readings, and from "Freud's Face" to "Prostates Growing."

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