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By Jocelyn Emerson
|Review by: Shaun Moffitt||
I have written poetry since I was a child, and Ive been a lifelong reader of poetry, from classics to contemporary, and I still have a preference for poems that have a linear, concrete feel to them. Our current poet laureate Louise Gluck writes lyric poetry that many find quite beautiful; however, I dont enjoy most of her poems, and I dont enjoy them because I usually dont understand what is going on in them.
Now, a given: I dont have to understand a poem in the same way that I understand a newspaper article. Im not being that obtuse. But my enjoyment comes from being able to picture an image or to smell it if necessary, to grasp a feeling, to delight in the way the words work together. As Robert Frost said, "poetry is a way of taking life by the throat," and I want to feel that when Im reading a poem. I want to feel that life is being stripped bare and the core, the heart, the soul at the center is being revealed by the poet.
But when I read
I cant feel or see anything. I feel I am too dumb for the poetry in Jocelyn Emersons Sea Gate, her recent book of poems from Alice James books. I have a masters degree in literature, but this is one book of contemporary poetry that stymies me.
There are some pretty words in these lines of Sea Gate II, but they leave me cold because I cant feel or see anything in them.
This prettiness is unlike, say, an e.e. cummings poem or an Emily Dickinson or a Dylan Thomaswhere the words and syntax often confuse me, but I still can enjoy the flow of ideas and the finely-wrought concrete images. I feel that Emerson has a masterful control of meter and rhyme (especially slant rhymes), yet the poems leave me cold.
The one poem that does speak to me is Iteration (II) because I can picture the speaker transfixed under a bridge, and here, the
The poems in this collection are tightly woven together in a theme of sea, river, ocean, and the creatures of air and water. The objective, scientific tone that Emerson uses certainly gives her subject an interesting atmosphere; unfortunately, this tone doesnt appeal to my poetic ear.
But Louise Gluck is our poet laureate, and I certainly think that Emersons poems are similar in style to hers. If you are interested in earth sciences and the connection between humans and nature, you might enjoy this book.