The Linnet's Wings Archive Archive 2013 - Page 54

Review of The Refrain R eview of The Refrain by Anne Whitehouse Dos Madres Press, 2012 By Nonnie Augustine I read The Refrain knowing that I would be reviewing it for The Linnet’s Wings, so I decided to turn back the corners of pages when I found a poem I might like to quote or reference in my review. (I don’t approve of turning back corners of pages, but I was out of post­it notes.) This method didn’t work, however, because I wanted to return to every poem I read, or quote it, or comment on it. I read the collection through again on another night, when I happened to be much grumpier, but again I liked every poem! So, there you have it. I think this is a splendid collection, written by a fine poet. I thought this during my first reading, when I was in relatively good physical, mental, and spiritual condition, and on rereading, when I was miserable with allergies, felt like a dolt, and had a lousy attitude. Ms. Whitehouse came through for me because she connects, reveals, soothes, and amuses. She uses language masterfully and with subtlety in forms that serve the clear meanings in each verse. A Harvard graduate who did her MFA at Columbia with Charles Wright her thesis advisor, Anne Whitehouse writes with maturity, compassion and insight about the people, places, and experiences in her world and, it seemed to me, in mine. This translation from the author’s world to the reader’s is one of the magical traits of good poetry. When a poet has the skill to do this, their work enlightens and enriches us and this author has the magic touch. “The Beyond,” a poem about a woman who has lost a loved one to the monstrous events of September 11, 2001, is delicate. A less skillful poet might reach for drama, pound our senses, describe for us something we almost all eventually witnessed, at least second hand. Ms. Whitehouse reins her poem in so that we hear the sad, confused, small wonderings of one grieving woman. With a few strokes she brings us back to the scenes of death and destruction in lower Manhattan, but the most satisfying lines in the poem are, although metaphysical, familiar and therefore real to me. What she’d like most is to partake of this life­after­death experience while still alive, so she would know. But life’s condition is ignorance. 37