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Dear Immovable
ISBN: 1-58998-420-X
By: LouAnn Shepard Muhm

Review by: Shaun Perkins

05/07

I have heard of Minnesota mosquitoes. One summer I had the chance to do a workshop in Minneapolis, and I turned it down because of what I had heard about the mosquitoes. Perhaps that’s one reason why I liked “The Poem I Can No Longer Avoid,” a poem about being irritated by a mosquito but the irritation is “. . . really embarrassment, / the kind I would feel / if I walked in on someone masturbating, / the kind that sees your hunger, / so much less hidden / than my own.” Poems that seem simple and spare like this one and that quickly dive into the intimacy of the speaker’s life always entice me. This poem was my favorite in the poetry chapbook Dear Immovable by LouAnn Shepard Muhm (Pudding House, 2006).

The book’s title poem of sorts “Dear Immovable Object,” is, in contrast, my least favorite poem. It seems to be the only poem in the collection where explanation replaces imagery. I favor the science of observation. Though the poem goes on for eight lines too long, I particularly enjoyed “Talisman,” in which the speaker gives an old table to a young woman and in doing so remembers “. . . the cigarette burn / in one corner” and how that burn reminds her of the one who “pulled my feet / into your lap / and rubbed them with both hands.” Here, for me, is the “immovable object,” the force of memory so strong in one’s body with the weight of years.

Another immovable object appears in “Nomenclature,” a poem about the name “Hester” being passed down until the speaker’s mother breaks the tradition because, as she says, “’I wouldn’t do that to you.’” Our names and the names we give the important things in our lives are powerful, as are memories, and both seem to hold this collection together: the naming that helps create us and the naming that we redefine through memories. This chapbook is a quick and easy read—the poems spare and imagist, sometimes a bit too prosaic but for the most part intimate and clear snapshots of the compartments we form to define ourselves. I recommend it to those who like contemporary, non-pretentious, free verse poetry.

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