"Lit Windowpane" (Main Street Rag, $14) is a tight collection of poems that speaks to the beauty of the natural world, as well as the relationships between individuals.
Suzanne Frischkorn's poems are often compact, well controlled, yet playful linguistically and thematically. This collection is engaging on multiple levels with its multilayered meanings and careful attention to language.
"Puccini at Dusk," the first poem in the collection, exhibits this poet's talent with lyrical musicality and strict attention to the detailed nuances of language:
"Dusk rubs its thumb
Along the horizon. I hear the echo
Of an aria; it follows each gold band
And a slide guitar."
A few early poems in the collection deal with a mythical mermaid. One, "The Mermaid Takes Issue with the Fable," is a response to Pablo Neruda's "The Fable of the Mermaid and the Drunks," and here the mermaid speaks:
"I came in the tavern totally naked, that's true.
And those drunk men inside: began to spit.
I was from the sea and I knew a thing, or two.
Yes, yes, a mermaid, but I had not lost my way.
The insults bounced off my gleaming scales"
Later in the poem, she tells us:
"I did not speak because they would not have listened.
My eyes were the colour of close hatred."
The mermaid then swims metaphorically toward "fullness."
Many poems reflect the ocean and water, two images often associated with women in literature. The poems individually move successfully from lamentation to praise, seeking to help a reader appreciate the beauty of existence despite loss.
The theme of swimming re-emerges in "Youth Drowns in Housatonic River," where the river speaks as it holds a young drowned boy. The river asks the reader to tell the boy's mother the following:
"Please tell his mother I brushed
The hair from his forehead and sang
Sweet songs until the divers came
a day later. Tell her, he swam a straight line."
Many of the poems play with the idea of water, its currents and healing powers, and its feminine associations, with titles "Ocean," "Red Wing Pond-October," "Minnow," Oystercatcher," "Saltmarsh" and "Mermaid."
Light also illuminates these extraordinary poems, in that the poems help a reader see the cyclical seasons of nature and life and death. The poem "First Outlook" exhibits this light:
"Morning -- a still of movement--
Its sinuous breeze, its light
Two sparrows knock each other
Around until their batting
Lands them in the gutter.
The renegade swallow scouts
the landscape. The sky,
a long bank of cloud.
In this valley of river
& asphalt, mulberry leaves twitch --
The songbirds have flown, wherever
Songbirds fly before a storm.
These poems are often syntactically innovative. They also are lyrically attentive to the ear, short and well-controlled, yet playful and imaginative. Themes of love, sorrow, nature and awareness run throughout.
This is a strong, taut collection by a young poet of relevance.
Sheryl Luna, an El Paso native and award-winning poet, is the author of "Pity the Drowned Horses" (University of Notre Dame Press).
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