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Apparition Wren*

ISBN: 13-978-1-59948-090-9

By: Maureen Alsop
Review by: Moira Richards

January 2009

The cover of Apparition Wren is intriguing and disconcerting, both. It’s of an upside down (but not really upside down if you look at her lace petticoats) young woman in a beautiful hooped dress – but does she have no legs? Is she a doll? Yet she looks so human …

And I found the poems inside Maureen Alsop’s book to be equally intriguing and disconcerting. No way can one skim these, flip through the pages and quickly absorb a poem or two.

This poetry entices with titles such as “Autobiography of Fresh Oil” (19-20) which begins on an invitingly narrative note and then, barely four short lines later the diction switches, the fonts change, the words space out over the page and the poem is no longer what it seemed. And then, as with the cover, I look at it again and again; I go back to the beginning, read more carefully, more in tune with the poetry. And then once again, this time noticing the shapes the words make on the page, the effects of the italics and capitals until at last the poem yields itself to me.

By the same teasing-out method, Isobella (12-13) discloses an account of a miscarriage, or perhaps it was a self-induced abortion? The poem, “Wolf in my glass” (41) reveals the seducing of the narrator. And there’s “Dovecote Ephemera” (64) which might or might not be a releasing of grief – I need to return to this poem a few times more to absorb it fully.

In fact there are many poems in Apparition Wren that I must still return to. I find myself unable to demand meaning from them, but rather like lovers, they give of them selves best as reward for gentle coaxings.

I usually include a number of extracts of poems in my poetry reviews to show the poet’s work, to let her poems have chance to speak themselves, perhaps more eloquently than I can. But Maureen Alsop’s work is so very varied that I find it hard to find an indicative piece or two. And every line of every poem is so much part of, and dependent on the whole that lifting a few lines does no service. So I thought to type out one of the shorter poems in its entirety – the one I spoke of above that is not yet quite as fully in my grasp as I am in its.

Dovecote Ephemera

Along the gold hem of her dress, edges
where the silk frayed, a flock of birds swung –

It was a distance
she long carried out of gladness,
a nothingness – the illimitable horizon. Soon

the buzz on the radio boomed with a smattering
of tiny voices. A flap of wing lifted
her throat. A spasm emptied her name into the forecast,

and memory assigned speechlessness
to grief. Threadbare birds

fell away into the hills – as untouchable
as grace. She swayed on the stoop
like the delicate tracing of eyes

over paper scraps. Stepping forth, she heard a flurry
of calm and, at last, a spill of birds – no longer trapped
by the borrowed vacancy of her body.

Maureen Alsop’s Apparition Wren contains forty-five of these surrealistic poems and I have many pleasurable hours of teasing and coaxing ahead of me while I get to know them all.


*Editor's Note: Maureen joined the staff of Women Writers shortly after the review of this book was set up, but we did not want to lose this well-reviewed text from Moira. If you feel that means bias, well, tough. Go write your own reviews/website. :)

 

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