TRUST by Liz Waldner
(Cleveland State University Poetry Center, Cleveland, OH, 2009)
Reading through Liz Waldner's TRUST, I came to feel that this book is the first in a very long while reading contemporary poetry collections that I have a sense of each poem being an individual poem, rather than part of a series developed by its author. (Factually, many of the other poetry books I have read may not have been written serially but for whatever reason, TRUST is the only one in some time where my response included this thought that each each poem was written singularly.) If my sense is accurate in terms of how Waldner created these works, it's nonetheless apt that, per its title, trust is the collection's theme. The poems all deal with this notion on one level or another.
What's enjoyable, though, is how various poems address trust in unexpected ways, e.g.:
This skull I hold
Grew full in love
But because, to me, the book did not seem to have been created serially, I found myself paying attention to the blurbs, curious as to how the blurbers might come up (if they do) with a concept to apply to the collection. Blurbs were provided by Kazim Ali, Sarah Gridley and Mary Biddinger. The first two praised Waldner's craftsmanship and luminosity -- traits I also gleaned and appreciated from my reading. But these are traits not specific to particular themes.
And I also observed what Gridley calls "weird" in many of Waldner's poems; "weird", however, may be just another way of describing the pleasingly-unexpected twists in diction. But such weirdness is also what elevates many of the poems beyond their clearly musical root, in the way that an older Jose Garcia Villa once said (or words to this effect), "I used to think poems should sing. Now I believe they should think."
Not that a binary needs exist in what poems should do/be, as may be implied by Villa's statement. But while the music is not just obvious but heightened in many of the poems, one also ends up focusing on what the poems are saying because the thoughts were presented in attention-grabbing ways:
Posole soaks in a bowl and makes little kissing noises
(from "Necessity With Respect to Yes")
An extra-long leaf of grass
pretended to metronome.
I wasn't fooled; I am learning to dance.
I also think many of the poems insist on the reader not just emotionally (as in lapsing to the engendered resonance) but also intellectually responding; I think this results partly due to how the poems don't abstract themselves from the figurative world -- as in, with deft humor from "Point, Counterpoint":
"I wanted to pick up light."
But you are myopic
and wanted to blow your nose.
More importantly, the poems overtly link "world" with the poems' "I". That is, Walden's words may reconfigure reality but they don't cause us to forget the realness of the references:
The world fits me.
For my right ear is a notch,
a duplicated valley's V ascending askew,
earth opening like Venus' shell
bearing the bluegray of sea.
(from "Forked Song")
To create light (if only in that reading space between reader and poem) from specific objects is one of the strengths of these poems. "Forked Song" shows how Waldner achieves this through the insistent specificity of the "I":
Shadows rise and fall down with a swing, with a rock
like the sea's that roars on the palms of my hands
when I cup the world to my ears.
I wear the far field like a watch as I swallow
wheel after wheel of orange.
I am the one who is here.
And it is the unapologetic "I" here that is significant. For, surely, a world cannot be acknowledged (even if it exists) without an "I"...? (This reminds me of how the phrase "I love you" depends not just on "you" which more commonly, in my observation, is how the phrase is interpreted, but also on the "I"). Here is the title poem in full:
If I would be walking down the road
you told me to imagine and I would and find
a diner kind of teacup sitting on its saucer
in the middle then I would feel so good
in my life that is just like mine
I would walk right up and look into my face
eclipsing the sky in the tea in the cup
and say, "Thank you, I have enjoyed
imagining all this."
Yet it is Waldner's impressive achievement that none of the poems read as being imagined--and, thus, is the theme "Trust" fully developed in this collection. In these poems, the reader becomes "I" (or "you") when that word is written. The light shines forth, too, from the reader's eyes as the reader believes in the poems sufficiently to inhabit them.
Eileen Tabios does not let her books be reviewed by Galatea Resurrects, but she is pleased to point you elsewhere: two reviews of her first 2009 book NOTA BENE EISWEIN -- one by Grace C. Ocasio at at Jacket 37 and the other by Joey Madia at New Mystics (July 2009). Her second 2009 book FOOTNOTES TO ALGEBRA was also reviewed recently by Jesse Glass at Ahadada. You also might check out Jean Vengua's engagement of one of her poems from THE BLIND CHATELAINE'S KEYS over at YouTUBE! Last but not least, she just -- just! -- released a chapbook in time for holiday gift-giving: ROMAN HOLIDAY.