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  • By Gary Earl Ross
    May 5, 2010
    The publisher posts TWO REVIEWS, one from Livio Farallo of Slipstream Magazine and one from Barbara Langhorst of St. Peter's College, Muenster, SK, Canada: This is a work in three parts. Three deeply personal but translatable parts. And in this sense, ‘translatable’ refers to the understanding of the outcome of the thought that led to this work, and the thoughts themselves. I don’t know how often we really ‘know’ the thoughts that lead to a work in poetry (unless, of course, the author tells us), more than we understand the work itself and recognize it according to its accomplishments. In ‘What I Would Not Unravel’ I think we have a good deal of both. The title of this work is indicative of what’s to be found throughout. Although as sometimes happens, the title of a work is sarcastic or even irrelevant, that is not the case here: In ‘What I Would Not Unravel’ the title appears to be at the core of the work, not easily revealed, but in no way irrelevant. Part I emanates from the earth,... More > is the pastoral side of the work. Suggesting that all it describes could very well exist on its own without human intervention or existence. It may be best encapsulated by the final stanza of ‘Sunrise’: Blood rising Against the back of night’s Black bear Or, perhaps the opening stanza of ‘Flight to Life’: Flock of nine blue jays July sapphires rising heat one read cardinal There is much in this section of the persistence, continuance, inevitability of nature (what a word). Is this what Lewis would not unravel? Part II is more human centered. More of a pervading sense of loss—real or perceived—expressed with simplicity and, very often, poignancy (how could a genuine feeling of loss be expressed otherwise)? From ‘I watch the burning’ this must be what it’s like to die you lose the ability to create a reflection. This human loss, or sense of loss—the depth perception of human need—is as sedimentary as the persistence of nature. But would you not unravel is? Or is it simply immune to being unraveled, and therefore, impregnable? Part III is the reconciliation of parts I and II, the attempt to bring the somewhat non-human and human elements together. Indeed, both realities intertwine to form a membrane. And perhaps the most penetrating, the most plaintive stanza is found in ‘Even if’: Even if beauty didn’t have an ulterior motive And you could love me whoever you and I are It could be something However, if a reconciliation of parts I and II is achieved in part III, it is perhaps best solidified deep in part III within the title piece ‘What I Would Not Unravel’: To walk towards me offering this Graceful whirl in the palm of your hand What the world has loosened You have gathered in me Our infinite fragility Embedded in the course of days Here is the inextricability of non-human and human, of nature and emotion which Lewis emblazons on these pages for us; which she forces us to look at; what she demands that we see. And she is right, you know? There is little here that needs to be unraveled. There is much here that is crystal clear. Livio Farallo, co-founder and co-editor of Slipstream Magazine ________________________________________________________________________ What I Would Not Unravel by Karen Lee Lewis Reviewed by Barbara Langhorst Karen Lee Lewis is a gift. Her exquisite way of apprehending the life poetic brings readers gratitude for all things, including the numerous ways that death manifests in the world. Where to start? While reading What I Would Not Unravel, I was struck by the plethora of intimate and intricate details that deserve mention. For instance, she speaks sweetly to the "Dark-eyed Junco" of the proper place for its "cloud belly" inside a cat rather than a hawk, while noting the beauty of its delicate wings that "flutter / eyelashes in wind." Few could write poems about Monarch butterflies without some saccharine moment, but Lewis's event is the pure inevitability of mating: "Attachment beckons separation." In another piece, "Regret We Plant Ourselves," the human desire to colonize the Monarch world ends in "compost." Her strategy is to illuminate rather than to untangle the complexities of being. Poems of birds, plants, and insects intersect with those of human life in compassionate but utterly unsentimental bridges. She asks and answers hard questions with grace and fearlessness. Her brilliant "Pointillism:" turns the reader toward wit while portraying a mind in lifelong loss that chooses self-inflicted physical pain as art and therapy. In "Hold Steady," Lewis melds literal with figurative language when she "Tranfer[s] to paper / the memory / of his touch." The work is beautifully artful and wise, claiming agency in so small an everyday occurrence as a broken stove: "I rather prefer this fertile need / to create a cosmos of light / with the strength of my hand." Lewis does indeed create a cosmos of light. The book's title poem describes a "sparrow weaving a cradle two inches diameter" made of strands of horsehair "that will dry quickly after a storm." This testimonial to innovation and ingenuity cries out for the same in readers. In not unravelling the natural world, Lewis has enhanced our appreciation for it, taught us a startlingly new vocabulary—and with it, coping skills—to see and act anew. Barbara Langhorst Poet and Humanities Coordinator at St. Peter's College, Muenster, SK, Canada< Less
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Product Details

The Writer's Den
March 26, 2010
Perfect-bound Paperback
Interior Ink
Black & white
0.39 lbs.
Dimensions (inches)
6 wide x 9 tall
Product ID
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