Paper Covers Rock ** and ** Triplicity

This dual chapbook, featuring the work of two poets in a flip edition, surprised me. This is the first book of publisher Indigo Ink and they’ve created a wonderful publication by bringing together two poets with distinct voices that complement each other. Both are women, but their conceptions of womanhood are not the same and the focus of each one’s chapbook is fundamentally different.

Paper Covers Rock by Chella Courington is reflective. Courington’s images and associations are often subtle. We are invited into both a sensual feeling of boundaries and a blurring of them, especially regarding the influence of family members. The poems focus on a woman’s relationship with her body, from youth to middle age. In her third poem “Thirteen,” the first stanza pulled me right in:

Anna Claire and I never like tall grass
afraid we’ll step on a cottonmouth.
But the color of indigo
waits for us the other side of danger.

In another poem, parents fight only to later ironically chastise their daughter with “Will you ever learn to behave?” The title poems turns the rock into a marvelous metaphor for relationship while the paper remains literal. At the end of the collection, Courington shows us the frailty of old age and the beginnings of it in middle age. In what is probably my favorite poem in the collection, she reflects on Georgia O’Keefe after her initial negative response to the desert southwest. From “Forty”:

Stieglitz dies. She escapes to open plains
cloud vistas where nothing presses
no camera traps   no skyscraper blocks
her stretching into whiteness–
bone on red hills.

Triplicity by Kristen McHenry provides an altogether different voice and perspective. Her poems are about relationship with roles and with the world. In the book’s first poem “Nature Conservancy, Spring,” she explores the archetype of the nurturing woman and then abruptly turns to embrace her own individuality with this delightful and hair-raising stanza:

Thank God then, for the Cactus Room,
where I felt
secretly the most at home. Squat,
vicious bastards: alien, self-contained,
unloved. Oh, to survive
thirty-seven years on just a particle of dew!
To need exactly nothing. To sprout
weapons from your own fibrous flesh.
To bloody those
who hover in to feed you.

This is not the only poem dealing with embracing what at first (or repeatedly) seems alien. Many of these poems deal with transformation with “Bartlett pears and teacups / escaping their architecture” (in one poem). They are also deeply honest, eschewing shame and showing no shyness toward self-confrontation or the visceral side of life.

Both of these poets have wonderful timing with humor. Their voices are completely different as are their outlooks on life. This may partly come from approaching poetry from different avenues. Courington is an academic while McHenry got a degree in theater and works in the non-profit world. Whatever the source of their differences, they both provide treats for readers. I would be happy to read more from either of them.

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Midpoint by John Updike

Copyright 1969
Checked out 12 times in 42 years
Last checked out 11 years ago

Though primarily a writer of fiction, Updike’s poetry is also treated with respect. I suspect the interest in this volume is primarily crossover from people who are fans of his fiction. It falls on fence as far as I’m concerned. There’s no compelling reason to keep it on the shelves after ten years without interest. However, considering his popularity as a fiction writer, I could see keeping it until 20 years of patron disinterest has passed rather than a mere ten.

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Recoveries by Theodore Weiss

Copyright 1982
Checked out 0 times in 29? years (date of acquisition uncertain)

Like the three other books by Weiss on the shelves, this book-length poem was a poor choice for Albertville. As the circulation reflects, few readers here are going to be interested in reading a poem that continues for 60 pages. Though Weiss is a respected poet, it isn’t necessary for a library to keep his work in the face of no interest.

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The Port Beyond by Thom Wilkerson

Copyright 1965
Checked out 9 times in 41 years
Last checked out 14 years ago

This hardcover book by a Boaz native is, unfortunately, far inferior to his later softcover book titled Boaz that is also in this library. This book is all moralizing and judgement whereas Boaz is full of colorful characters and well-rendered events both from area history and from Wilkerson’s personal history. I’m going to recommend keeping this simply because it’s from a local poet, but it really has very little poetic value and there’s barely any trace of evidence that he lived in this county. I was certainly a disappointment for me having read his other book first.

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The Gardener’s Book of Verse

edited by Helen Van Pell Wilson
Copyright 1966
Checked out 10 times in 41 years
Last checked out 15 years ago

I’m surprised there hasn’t been more interest in this book. It’s full of parts of traditional poetry, which is to say that which rhymes, from past centuries mostly, but all with some leaning toward gardens. Considering how long it’s been since anyone has checked it out, I recommend letting it go. It has minimal value as a book of poetry because so many of the poems are quoted only in part.

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31 New American Poets

edited by Ron Schrieber
Copyright 1969
Checked out 10 times in 40 years
Last checked out 6 years ago

The most noteworthy thing about this book of poetry is the forward by Denise Levertov, which is primarily a statement about that moment in time politically and socially more than poetically. What she and the editor had noticed was an abundance of good poetry by younger poets. What’s sad is that none of the poets presented, except Marge Piercy, went on to be a prominent poet. Normally, I would say to discard this book; however, lingering patron interest bends me in the opposite direction. This is well-written poetry even if the poets are no longer recognized or anthologized. Keep it on the shelf until it goes ten years without attention.

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The Poetry Circus by Stanton A. Coblentz

Copyright 1967
Checked out 9 times in 43 years
Last checked out 21 years ago

This is a book of criticism rather than poetry. It’s primary tack is against modernism and for old formalist rhyme and meter. While that may be an opinion many in Albertville would support, they apparently don’t feel the need to read about opinions in poetry generally. Feel free to let this outdated book go.

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