Friday, August 8, 2014

The Perpetual Commotion of the Heart, by Norma Gay Prewett

Gay Prewett is a friend of mine from high school (we once performed "The Cruel War" at our school's talent show, feeling like ultracool folk singers; unfortunately, I couldn't actually play the guitar I was strumming, but that's another story). Several years ago, we reconnected on Facebook and I am happy to report that she has just published her first collection of poetry, The Perpetual Commotion of the Heart.

From the resonance of that title and the beautiful painting that adorns the cover, created by Gay herself, to the moving final poem "Perhaps a Flower: Doing the Dishes," the collection draws the reader into Gay's Arkansas-bred family, her beloved Wisconsin cabin on Mapledale Creek, and even her yoga practice. As I have stated several times before, I'm not really qualified to comment on poetry qua poetry. Still, I can recognize a deft author's hand that, through rhythm, image, and well-crafted phrase, captures beautifully the poignancy of motherhood, of growing up financially poor but rich in love and noise, of aging, of, essentially, life. Gay's poems are moving without being sentimental. One of her blurb-writers does a much better job describing Gay: "She is a pragmatist of earthly practicalities . . . and a fearless limit-tester in love" (Bob Wake).

Because no collection in my experience can move any particular reader with every poem, I admit the poems in the "Doing the Down Doggerel" section are not my favorites (though I love the section title). However, those in the book's other four sections provide more than adequate pleasure.

Favorite passages:
I taste history and future in this tangy sweet
Grandmother and great-great-grandchild together.
Nothing, not even jelly, will ever be as clear again.
From "Grape Jellying at the End of the Century"

I am tacking indirectly toward a home
I know is there, but may not recognize
From "Perhaps a Flower: Doing the Dishes"

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