Today, we have notable poet Alice Wiess, and her review of Spruce Alley Press’ production of Kenneth Pobo’s When the Light Turns Green, with artwork by Stacy Esch.
When the Light Turns Green we take off or nose out of stillness into little places resonant with quirky beauty and pain. It is a light filled lyrical ride where each poem stops to find something in place: a moment, a vision, a transcendence of pain, a recognition, a way of seeing. In “Family Reunion,” the idea of family broadens into surprise,
One grasshopper holds
all her ancestors
on a single leaf.
The place where “Sometimes Loneliness Can’t Be Cured” is school where you are different, gay, and
Classmates cement bricks together
With his Grandpa, ‘tea/on a small porchtable’ and work, in a poem he uncovers an unexpected longing in the old man, a change in his understanding of the man, place is Commonwealth Edison, and the thing about it it’s not an outdoor job. In the poem “Photo,” the place is Key West, and he’s young and in love, or maybe chillingly, it’s “A stalled car. Yet” he smiles “like when a cop/pulls someone over/ who tries to get out of a ticket.”
In “Face the Autumn,” we see the speaker in place, to wit, a bullied gay kid, who sees “trapped kids/ trapped other kids.” More figurative but also ominous, in “Way Back” we see a garden go from autumn to winter, and again, we are transfixed in place:
We bring in
the Christmas tree
See blackened wisps,
petunia ghosts looking
for some crack in
a snowy wall
In “Pointed Toes” we find a humorous place intertwining street and bedroom.
Another poem, a character wonders if “Death is a hailstorm,” What’s in place here is the tearing up of the ordinary, the shirts, the petunia, the disruption even of the disruption, turning the hail into “melting globes:”
torn plaid shirts
of petunia blossoms
under melting globes.
And in “Heron” the speaker explores what it means to dominate a place, not merely a nest, “she spent spring sprucing up,” but a greater place, continuous, she can survey, snag a snake, “make short work of a toad.” Or “Tree” where the metaphor takes control of vision, so the tree cuts the sun into slivers, “Put sky in a tree/ and it’s less than/ a caught kite.
Along with place as a theme to explore, there are doors, which of course define place, or at least a special kind of enclosed place. In “Bulbs,” as in “Sometimes Loneliness Can’t Be Cured” the problem is the stealing of order, the bullies, the squirrels, that leave the soul gaping,
. . . Squirrels rob us
blind, don’t bother to close
soils’s door when they leave.
Stacy Esch’s colorful plates deepen the experience of the poems. “Hold on but let go,” a colorful leaf-like background surrounds a figure both plant and man, his turned away face in the center of the bloom. The picture is art made from the struggle in the poems against the suffocation of the enclosure, the wall of color, with very little light coming though, yet there is growth.
For me the place where Esch’s prints and Pobo’s poems come together to give us a sense of release and sense of strange community in the juxtaposition of Pobo’s two Mrs. Mugroni poems and Esch’s “Gathering.” The background of the print lets in light; there are standing figures and a crowd of heads with open eyes and child smiles. and there is a kind of structure in the center of the piece made of shapes that look like building parts that combine with a figure that seems to be a woman and three children. The structure just balances the somewhat sad figure at the top is away from the crowd but balances on it, observing, a little sad. So we see the speaker observe the Mugroni family, Mrs. Mugroni, pillar of the church who holds it together, by “offing” the lights, when she might see, recognize, that church is a salesman pulling into the driveway. “She keeps the Bible under Perry Como Albums/ Sunday comes. She’s there.”
This series of poems and prints finds its recognition in metaphors that merge nature and irony, observes isolation and anger there, lets time show itself as a kind of healer, “our beards whiter than last year.” “Sooner or later everything departs”.
Alice Weiss’ poems have been appeared in the Alaska Quarterly Review, Soul-Lit.com, Ibbetson Street, Liberty’s Vigil, The Occupy Anthology; Poetry Super Highway; Wilderness House Literary Review; Muddy River Poetry Review, and Jewish Currents. Until 2011 she was the unofficial Poet-in-Residence at Am HaYam, the Cape Cod Chavurah. She received an MFA in poetry from New England College in 2010 and has been studying with Tom Daley in Cambridge.