Review by Ellen Miller-Mack
Carol Potter, a strong swimmer though language and experience, is an imaginative, far-ranging and often funny poet. What Happens Now is Anyone’s Guess is her sixth collection of poems, awarded the 2021 Pacific Coast Series Award from Beyond Baroque Books. Other books include Some Slow Bees, a winner of the 2014 Field Poetry Prize from Oberlin College Press, Otherwise Obedient (Red Hen Press, 2007), a finalist in the Lambda LGBT awards for 2007, and Short History of Pets which won the 1999 Cleveland State Poetry Center Award and the Balcones Award. Two previous books were published by Alice James Books: Upside Down in The Dark (I995) and Before We Were Born (1990).
Potter weaves mother-love, dreamscapes, the natural world and experience into the truth of the moment. These poems are the meeting place of mind and nature.
Through this book you will dive, float, listen for creatures and for “ …the sounds ice makes, water contracting beneath the surface making a sort of tympanic sound.”
will be something alive. Is alive. Is the water tumbling
through the trees and you need the water. Your own mother
diving into it wherever she could find it. You learned to drink.
You drank from her though she sat quite still while you did it.
“Walking The Ice “ is one of the most moving and musical poems in this collection. It feels like a variation on a Shakespearean sonnet. On a frozen river, small animals walk safely on the surface. Tension builds— the dog is following a scent precariously, and underneath there is “water banging along”. The poem glides to a celebration of love and sex and weed with a dear one, Barbara, who died young. The last two lines are a heroic couplet, bringing the reader from the undeniable risk of being alive to joy in the beauty of sun on snow.
Potter can be very funny. Don’t be surprised to find yourself smiling and laughing along. In “ the Loving Family Van”, the absence of punctuation and caps and the breathy line breaks accentuate the daffiness.
…we have two families and the grandmother it is difficult
to get them all in the car at once we can fit three small people in the back
seat but dad’s feet and shoulders make it difficult to get him in and out
of the car the limbs are NOT articulated the mothers keep sliding
under the dash
Potter excels at dream-logic, especially in the first poem:
I was looking for you and took a swim in your pool.
It wasn’t your pool. You never had a pool. It’s the house
I grew up in. The pool is new. The people are new.
It was a hot night in July. No one was home. I opened the gate,
took off my clothes, dove in, swam end to end.
Thanks for the beer you left poolside. Thanks for the coke.
In a section of prose poems, Potter shows powerful narrative control in some wild territory . Prose poems look like a paragraph ( no line breaks), but act just like a poem. Think Gertrude Stein. Think Harryette Mullen. Charles Simic calls prose poetry “an impossible amalgamation of lyric poetry, anecdote, fairy tale, allegory, joke, journal entry, and many other kinds of prose.”
Potter dips in and swims on this wide , raucous river.
Come on in; this book is fine.
What Happens Next Is Anyone’s Guess by Carol Potter
Pacific Coast Poetry Series 2022 $18.00
Ellen Miller-Mack has an MFA from Drew University. She co-wrote the Real Cost of Prisons Comix ( PM Press) and is a nurse practitioner at a community health center in Springfield ,Massachusetts.