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This review is taken from PN Review 197, Volume 37 Number 3, January - February 2011.

FACING UP ELIZABETH SPIRES, The Wave-Maker (Norton) $13.95
CATIE ROSEMURGY, The Stranger Manual (Graywolf) $15
JOANNA RAWSON, Unrest (Graywolf) $15 GERALD STERN, Save the Last Dance (Norton) $13.95

A lot of Elizabeth Spires’s poetry deals with universal feelings about the transience of life, the importance of love memories, loneliness. The Wave-Maker is in keeping with her previous five collections: these carefully considered poems are rooted in the day-to-day life of a middle-aged, middle-class American woman, and at her best this poet is able to touch our hearts by showing her own. This is from ‘To a Fog Spirit’, for the poet’s daughter on Halloween:

Does fog beget fog?
No, you have a mother and father.
So creep back to this house
and with a hand solid as my own
rap hard! three times on the door,

and when it opens, as it will,
step through the portal and change,
change back into my daughter again.

Unfortunately, Spires does not always avoid the backwards slide into sentimentality tempted by such themes and preoccupations. She has a Keatsian habit of addressing objects and creatures in the second person, but this only serves to highlight her weaknesses. ‘White Room’ begins: ‘White room, you’ve seen me as no one has seen me. / You’ve listened and said nothing’. ‘Coelacanth’ focuses on a deep-sea fish, forging a tenuous spiritual connection between woman and beast:

You and I, we live in depths profound and ceaseless,
we swim against cold currents until, netted

and gasping, we are shocked to find out
not ...


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