Review by Ellen Miller-Mack
– When I was pregnant with my first son, I told a friend who is from Ghana that I was dreaming every night about food. There were fine restaurants where I would order extravagant meals, or visit caves lined with chocolate walls. She held my hands with tears in her eyes—in her culture food dreams meant hunger. I was hungry, but not for food. I craved mindfulness, living inside my body, inside a lush inner landscape which was both mine and not mine. The chocolate cave walls had messages in an ancient language I longed to understand.
The Pomegranate Papers by Cassie Premo Steele offers an interpretation of the ancient language, with poems about pregnancy, children and the challenges of marriage. From the second poem, “Conception”,
I whispered by the light
Of the night that you were
welcome, and I know now
that you heard me, clear.
Clarity and self-knowledge are present in these poems. The reader is guided steadily through familiar experiences honestly and directly. Premo Steele’s exploration of how we painfully experience our children’s vulnerability pulled me close in “The Truth is I am Afraid,” a beautifully constructed prose poem to her baby:
I am afraid I have made you whole, myself, and if I forget you will disappear, like the flower you neglect to pick that wilts and whithers.
And again, to her child now eighteen, in “For My Daughter”:
I want to enter your dreams at night like an ancient legend.
I want to be the heroine who rescues you from every demon.
Premo Steele uses nature as metaphor in many of the poems in this volume. While inside the poems, the reader is in that dynamic zone of transformation, growth and beauty.
From “Hurricane Season”:
I am not afraid of the seasons,
Not the mountains or rivers or night.
I am the one desert pink flower in bloom.
This is a poet who knows craft and uses it well. Life experiences many of us share as mothers and women are artfully transformed into lovely, precise poems designed to connect us.
The Pomegranate Papers by Cassie Premo Steele
Unbound Content 2012
Ellen Miller-Mack has an MFA in Poetry from Drew University. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in 5 A.M., Valparaiso Poetry Review, Rattle, Verse Wisconsin, Rumpus and Bookslut. She co-wrote The Real Cost of Prisons Comix (PM Press) and is a nurse practitioner/primary care provider at a community health center in Springfield, Massachusetts.