Thursday, April 30, 2009

Book in Brief: Out Here (2008) by Ginger Murchison

Review by Keith Badowski

Ginger Murchison’s first collection of poems, Out Here, from Jeanne Duval Editions, provided me with hours of delighted reading and re-reading as I carefully took note of the focused voice of each poem and the attention to concrete details that make for vibrant writing.

The 27 poems presented here are all incredibly tight creations, not a one spanning more than a page in length. Murchison proves herself to be a meticulous crafter of language, allowing only the words that are needed for the poem, nothing more, nothing less. But that doesn’t mean she skimps on the delights of poetic devices.

The title poem “Out Here” with its attention to recurring sounds and energetic use of personification, takes the reader on a naturalistic journey from regret to renewal. There’s a strong sonic thread of repeated ‘m’ sounds: me, remembers, minimal, monumental, mistakes, and moldering. And this lovely alliterative line: ‘rich with the rot of river . . .’ Through personification the naturalistic scene takes on personality and human significance. The shadows want, the headwaters think, the roots can’t see, and the wind tries to look busy. Although the tone starts out in gloomy disappointment, the poem ends with a playful sense of optimism and refreshment.

Another example of Murchison’s charms is the vivid details of “Croagh Patrick” which deals with the pressures of a Catholic upbringing. The speaker sarcastically refers to the “debt I owed for being born” and how Father Thomas told her “the biggest room/in the world was the room for improvement.” I smiled in sympathy as the poem opened up the scene. My inner-eye was held by the details of Dad’s pajamas, the Big Chief tablet of paper and the smudge on a page, and, best of all, her description of the stance for ironing: ‘that tip-toed, breath-holding/ whole-body pose, the kind you see applied in the high jump . . .’ Obviously, humor is a big component of Murchison’s voice.

If you long for a poetry volume that will engage your ear, your mind, your senses, and your funny bone, Out Here by Ginger Murchison is not to be missed!