Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Feeding Time

I remember when this book arrived in summer, just in time for me to take it to the beach to read! It's full of fiddler crabs and other marine creatures. Of course, I was at the lake, not the ocean, but there was sand and water. I'm glad to be reading FeedingTime, by Emily Scudder, again now, as the cold comes on, so I can remember that summery shore.

The first poem, "Transitory Adhesion," introduces the conversational tone and a fine "transitory" randomness:

Seagulls bore me.  I like this boredom.
The mind can wander, like this.

Snails latch onto other snails. Or a rock.

With drop lines, kids fish.
Pull them up. Throw them back.

I once did that.
Sand robins are ugly fish.

And so forth. I can hear the water plopping. I can look around and see what she's seeing. I'm leaving out the heart of the poem now, the center, the personal, a loss, something for you to find on your own.  Now I'm looking around again, as she does, to recover. The poem resumes

Is it the fiddler crabs?
I count on crabs when other things change.

I call this monotonous attachment.

The ocean is like this: reused, remembered.
The mind can wander, like this.

And morning fog burns off, like it does.

Oh, I love that repeated line, "The mind can wander, like this," and the perfect use of a comma there, as demonstration of how easily it's done, this mind wandering, which the whole poem also demonstrates. I love the use of "like" here, too, conversationally, and especially in that last line, to resist simile and insist on what really happens, the morning fog burning off.

I have so many favorite moments in this book, and so many come from its blunt honesty, its simplicity of statement. It's like the opposite of Virginia Woolf, but here's one I love called "A Room of One's Own" that takes place at a writer's retreat and begins:

I am not very happy.
I am supposed to be very happy.
I am supposed to eat very well.
I order clam dogs and Cokes.

Clam dogs! I didn't even know such a thing existed, but I've wanted one ever since I read about it in this poem.

The women at the Lobster Pot like me.
The women at the women's bookstore like me.
The women at the women's bookstore offer me
the lesbian discount and I am pleased.

I would be pleased, too! This poem keeps building to its solitary writing room and attached "supposed to's" and with wry humor and poignant honesty goes somewhere new that is somewhere familiar, too. I'll let you find it via Pecan Grove Press!

But before you (and I) go, I want to give you the heart of another poem, this one called "Because We All Die Someday." It opens with a Woolfean sentiment, "And all I want is an hour to myself," which is also a Rita Dove sentiment...or any hardworking woman's sentiment, especially the writer kind. But here's exactly what I identify with, connecting me to my mother, who mows, and grandmother, who picked up sticks in the yard, and to the chores we ask our kids to help us with:

When I pick sticks off the lawn
my kids hate to help. Groan.

Why are we doing this anyway?

Because I did when I was a kid.
Because sticks jam the mower.
Because we all die someday, and picking
sticks is a small thing
and makes Grandma happy.

I love that "Groan," like the earlier "Clump." I love, again, that simple repetition that gets the job done.

Despite the reminder of death and the line "I am not very happy," this book is full of animal joy and family joy. I love the poetic renewal of vows in "If I Married You Again" with its new wedding attire--"I'd wear pants / and black boots"--and its raw desire! (Ah, I appreciate this "monotonous attachment" so different from the snail's!) "Throw my flowers like a shortstop."

I celebrate this book the way she'd re-do her wedding:  "Raise a fist / for the real of it."

Poet Emily Scudder is also the founder of Fiddler Crab Review, dedicated to reviewing chapbooks, new or old. I was thrilled when I first found this site, kept reading and admiring, and now I do reviews there, too! So if you have a chapbook, here's where to send it!


Maureen said...

You've given this such a wonderful review, I can't help but put it on my list of future books-to-get.

Kathleen said...

That's great, Maureen, thanks! I'm sure Pecan Grove Press will be happy to hear from you. I love all these lists of books that poet/writer bloggers are recommending as Christmas gifts.

And I really, really want a clam dog for breakfast.

Hannah Stephenson said...

Sounds fantastic....I love the excerpts you shared (and what a great cover!!).

Kathleen said...

Thanks, Hannah!