The Best Literary Writing About Mothers and Motherhood

New Found Land by Carolyn Clark

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Review by Mindy Kronenberg

 

 

 

 

 

New Found Land is an inspired collection of moments and life events revealed by a contemporary voice that echoes and gives homage to mythic tradition. Each poetic narrative casts an observant and philosophical glance on its subject, whether a view of the landscape from above the clouds, the invasive paths in a wilderness, or the discovered exotica of domestic existence.

Carolyn Clark is an adept tour guide, keeping the reader aloft and in motion with tectonic shifts in topography and emotional territory. The world we’ve inherited and move through is solid but fragile, wondrous but temporal. In the collection’s title poem, “New Found Land,” a flight over Greenland reveals a vista of endangered natural beauty:

Following saffron dawn,
a silver winged vessel
over New found land :
ice whorls, white as boats, below,
icebergs scattered as never before,
seas that don’t stop rising.

Next, ocean tundra,
fissures of olive hued rock
reaped by glacial harrowing,
labyrinth of fjords, dark blue,
surfacing as snowmelt unzips new land. (1)

The view from “Clear,” written after a flight from Israel, remarks on how the distance above “a patchwork quilt/ of cultivation: / fields harrowed / fields lying fallow / fields touching fields, / small differences” creates a vantage point that fools both the eye and mind, diminishes the grandeur of antiquity and the promise of peace in our time:

How easy from here, this high,
to forget the fluid markets,
sandal slap on stone,
the curb man’s music.

How easy it is,
above the sirens’ reach
above the wail in human speech,
how easy it is
to forget
firstborn, the flute,
the waters’ music. (10)

Instead, the distances between lands and the timeless brand of human violence slowly close up: “We have let gravity pull / bombs to fertile fields / and people, dismembered / unfamiliar faces, are blown away / like angels, / poor devils.”

A subtle music often accompanies the movement of Clark’s lines, and often summons a quiet, unexpected reverie, as in “Nones: Morning song” (7) where a Saturday is transformed by a squirrel’s good luck (“Somewhere / beneath / a veil lifted / from grey business / and saved me / from the humdrum, the neck aches, / the ashes of yesterday’s / hearth fire.”), and “Alterations on a Wedding Dress: Qui Futurus Es Iam Fis” where ritual and the romantic ideal yields to the reality of domestic love and coming home to the true self:

My dreams haunt me
icons of compromise:
corned beef cans,
a bucket of margarita mix
pulling me down to earthly life,
while this white dress has become
a beacon of wishes:
dreams come true!
Knowing that somehow
between your pragmatic realism
and my longing for mutual music,
(whole notes, solitude, breathing
in and out)
this wedding day will bring us
limping out of night. (38)

There are poems devoted to love in various guises, quiet and tempestuous, familial, sensual, and platonic, enduring and endangered. “A Hurricane Came (after Horace Ode 1.5)” is a marvel of sensory depiction and word play, the poet swept up by her own emotional fury in the aftermath of hurt:

A hurricane came
from inside me last night:
I was the eye of the storm
until, passing through me,
all parts soaked and shuddered,
even my shuttered windows unlatched.
A tsunami, a harbor wave,
left me high and dry on wet sand,
unharmed, just amazed
at how I got there. (48)

Equally arresting are the poems with softened lines and meditative phrasing that slows our reading and reminds us to watch, observe, breathe, like the twig that regains consciousness under melting snow in “Twig Poem,” (2) or the interruption of dream-like movement in “Young Woman Jogger” (26). “Stopping to Breathe” (71) reminds us that “Poems spring from silence / and little noises that stretch time: /afternoon bird song, / the purr of a light plane / imagined beyond / white pleated blinds…” Carolyn Clark’s journey in New Found Land is an epic of life’s discoveries and detours, the shared excursions of a fully aware woman.

New Found Land
by Carolyn Clark
Cayuga Lake Books, 2017, $n.nn, [paper] ISBN 9781681111957
76 pp

 

 


Mindy Kronenberg is an award winning poet and writer with over 500 publication credits world-wide. She teaches writing, literature, and arts subjects at SUNY Empire State College, publishes Book/Mark Quarterly Review, is Editor of Oberon poetry magazine, and the author of Dismantling the Playground (Birnham Wood) and Images of America: Miller Place (Arcadia). Her poetry chapbook, Open, is available from Claire Songbirds Publishing

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