The Best Literary Writing About Mothers and Motherhood

Night Collage by Annie Deppe

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Review by Lisa C. Taylor

 

Night Collage is both a love story and a slow dance, opening with the foreboding, In Flew Chaos, a poem that juxtaposes wind that “rearranged the strand” with a knock on the door in the middle of the night during a snowstorm. The events call up a long-ago memory of the poet’s mother letting a woman with a gun into the house and chatting with her at the kitchen table. This narrative of human fragility, all the more apparent during the pandemic, creates a kind of photomontage through time, as the poet recalls other moments of vulnerability and upheaval. In Meditation On The Gift of Feet, a fifteen-year-old son failing to return home on Christmas Eve is a catalyst for a memory of the Three Mile Island catastrophe and concern for the safety of the poet’s parents. Annie Deppe skillfully stitches together the helplessness experienced during turbulent times, with the ache of missing loved ones, “…. how does a mother/mother when an ocean lies between?” (15)

The collection finds its respite in the wild and unique landscape of Connemara, where the poet resides. The poem, Nestling Green doesn’t ask but seems to posit that the slowing down and taking in nature may be one antidote to the toxicity of the modern world.

This is paradise, and if paradise
keeps changing, you might be right.
A pair of oystercatchers
dib and whistle, then lift
to circle the low flat tides of light.
Each sharp note a fractal
of this shared life. Each green change
containing the whole.  (21)

Annie Deppe’s poems celebrate long love. family, and the recognition that those in relationship are individuals with separate interests and longings. I was moved by the poem We Are Not One And The Same (22) as the poet tries to reconcile different reactions to their original leap to Ireland twenty years ago. The joy in the landscape at times conflicts with the reality of growing older, and leaving adult children and grandchildren behind. In the poem, “Outside Howth”, the poet misses her mother’s call and returns home too late to call back, not realizing that it would be her last chance to speak with her. “She was dead by morning.” (28). Later in the poem, she recalls hearing a story about how we all start out as water, “not yet solid/or fully in the world until the age of seven.” (28). The poem’s stunning ending will stay with me. “A gradual process, this turning of the tides, /this slipping away. So short a time solid. / So short a time fully in this world.” (28)

Reverence for the natural world, mutual respect, and love in a relationship are recurrent themes throughout this collection. In the poem, Song of the Wheel In The Key of Green (35-36), the narrative vaults between the poet’s brush with death, as she is “sleepless with pain” and her vision of a green wheel that ultimately represents a return to life. The poem culminates with the rhythm and comfort of a long marriage.

Evenings, from the lane, neighbours sometimes see us
reading to each other and it feels as if
they’re peering not into our home
but into our hearts… (36)

This is poetry that acknowledges the fickleness of mobility and breath while honoring the allure of unspoiled vistas. Annie Deppe is an artist who has experienced life, with all of its twists and tragedies. In the poem, What Now Goes By The Name of Home (47), she remembers the thirty or so homes they shared on both sides of the Atlantic. The concept of home, like love, is less place and more connection.

…. are we not still tucked in together, somehow, /wherever we are? But the worry/that the house might be emptying

is enough to wake me up most nights.
I thought it would be forever. Its own Jerusalem. (47)

 

The imperfections of the human body are no match for the resilience of intellect and attachment. These poems celebrate kinship as they mourn the losses that are an inevitable part of the human condition. Night Collage achieves that delicate balance, inviting the reader to revel in moments. The poetry of Annie Deppe invites us to sing out, love fully, and appreciate the gorgeous and flawed world. In Night Collage Seven, love is the salve. “If I knew how, I’d pull up this island/like a low chair and listen for you./Or rebuilt that boat and row.” (61).

Annie Deppe is a dual citizen of Ireland and the United States. She is the author of Sitting in the Sky (2003) and Wren Cantata (2009), both published by Summer Palace Press. Her poems have appeared in literary magazines on both sides of the Atlantic including Poetry Ireland Review, The Stinging Fly, Sojourners, Sou’wester, and The SHOp. She’s received grants from the Arts Council/An Chomhairle Ealaíon and the Arts Council of Northern Ireland. Annie works for Stonecoast Ireland (a part of the University of Southern Maine’s MFA program) and she lives on the west coast of Ireland.

Night Collage by Annie Deppe
Arlen House (Dublin), 2021
$18.38 (paper) ISBN 978-2-85132-237-4


Lisa C. Taylor is the author of four collections of poetry and two collections of short fiction, most recently, Impossibly Small Spaces (2018). She was awarded the Hugo House New Works Fiction Award in 2015. A new collection of her poetry will be published in May 2022.

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