Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Shannon Ward, Blood Creek

A 24-page chapbook, Shannon Camlin Ward’s Blood Creek (Longleaf Press, 2013) is a strong debut collection of poems with often intense subject matter and images.  I will say that I am friends with the author, and went to school with her, so I don’t claim to be objective — but I like that intensity, for example in “Her New Father”:

When he looks at her, his retinas flash
the peculiar flame of the predatory eye caught in the beams
of headlights in tall grass by a country road
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

One day soon, she’ll steal his truck,
rip the poems from his lips, drive South.

It’s interesting that in this poem, the step-father, a seemingly despised figure, nonetheless speaks in poetry, which the speaker will co-opt for her own purposes as artist.

The collection’s opener, “Directions,” an imperative-mood prose-poem, functions both as an ars poetica and a road narrative through the underside of America.  Molestation and abuse recur as themes throughout, or hints of these at least, but the speakers in Ward’s poems never wallow in victimhood but rather seem to gain the upper hand in their particular situations through sheer perseverance, ingenuity, and strength.

The ekphrastic/tribute poem to the Mexican American artist Carlos Almaraz yokes Ward’s work to his ecstatic, urban “dizziness” and suggests a new phase of development.  Wherever this poet goes next, her taut lines — often long lines — and skill for finding the precise, necessary word will undoubtedly stand her in good stead.  In the meantime, you would not go wrong to pick up Blood Creek.  Along with its vigorous poems, it’s a very nicely produced little volume.

No comments: