Wednesday, April 15, 2009

The Right Amount of Words: Savoring the Poetry of Laura Davies Foley [Coming to Kingdom Books, Sat. April 18, for our annual Poetry Party]


Let the April rains come in.
I am a sloping hill with new buds piercing.

So opens one of the poems in MAPPING THE FOURTH DIMENSION, the 2006 collection from Laura Davies Foley. And it's one of the gentler openings in the book, but it heads toward the final lines:

I have no skin.
My hair is gone.
The candle within draws deeper.

And that solemnity, that willingness to paint loss in its sorrows as well as its potential, rings with honesty. Wherever or whenever we'll have the chance to meet and hold our dead again, the time between now and then hurts. Foley says goodbye and "I miss you" repeatedly in this collection.

Yet each poem is as different from the others as one face is from the faces around us. The poem "Exiled," for instance, proclaims absence -- then paces through walking by a lake or through winter, and at last into summer:
And in this walking,
this movement away, I came to a clearing
and received the clearing light,
the clouds moving apart, and you,
like a footprint
filling now with sand,
and the wide shore stretching on.

It fascinates me that Foley's second collection, SYRINGA, published in 2007, seems to have overlapped the first collection in gestation time -- each book mentions the other. But SYRINGA, springing from contemplation of a wounded waterbird and from a parallel contemplation of self and spirit, gathers light in great, sweet-scented armfuls and proclaims joy and blessing from these roots. Consider "A Day":
I was watching the geese sleeping.
I was watching the one
with the broken wing.
The serene one, floating in her painful knowledge.

As Foley leads the lines through patterns and shifting light, she resolves the poem with:
The ordinary is always like that.
Always ready to reveal itself
as something other.

But it isn't other.
It's just the ordinary.
And isn't that
the extraordinary thing we come to know?

In SYRINGA there waits also the sea at dusk; a five-year-old child diving; a solstice sparrow; and moments from hospice caring. The lines are generally short, the poems a page more or less, and the images unforgettable.

It's a pleasure to open the door of Kingdom Books on Saturday April 18 at 11 a.m., so that we can gather with this poet and her careful work.

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