Reviewed by Natasha Kochicheril Moni
MISTAKING THE SEA FOR GREEN FIELDS
by Ashley Capps
The University of Akron Press, Akron, Ohio 44325-17034; ISBN-1-931968-37-3, ISBN# 1-93168-37-9, 67pp., $14.95
Ashley Capps, as depicted by the title of her first full-length poetry collection, lures her readers with the tease of safety among unchartered territory. Set to the cadence of growing up Southern, Capps delivers confessional that directs, questions--demands multiple readings.
"I thought I felt like my neighbor's huge dog-- / every day stuffed into a small man's green T-shirt / and chained to a stake in a yard of incongruous / white tulips. Here and there a red bird, a train." (from "Hymn for Two Choirs")
Each poem is crafted with diligence in both language and form, exhibiting an attention to visual congruity as well as emotional/intellectual resonance.
Visualize your body healing I said
but he shook his head and described
black luna moths on his lungs
hungry flotillas sourcing the lymph
and on his birthday when we argued over a cloud
resembling: a) a chandelier
b) a lesser-tentacled squid
c) (we both saw the lost photograph of my mother
unwinding her pink foam curlers) I knew
we had loved the same world
Sometimes literal, often whimsical Mistaking The Sea For Green Fields investigates the relations between humans/nature with a twist: "The limousine breathes / on the side of the street / like a beached whale, trailing tissue and condoms / like lampreys... She is wide and white as a wave." (from "The Wedding"), Shane's pitbulls are pried off a convict's legs with a tool called a "breakstick", an ex-lover claims a crab "as an orchid, as a music box, as / if it were intact, when in fact /. . . You saw it. You / were there-- / that enormous claw; dangling / like a polite, ridiculous teacup." (from "Reading an Ex-Lover's First Novel").
Moses and Jesus (with his flea-circus) float through Capps's sections as swiftly as the mother who chained her son to the pier during a hurricane to watch the waves break, the sister who continued to rent her body out instead of returning home. And there is, what the reader may assume, the author's own reckoning as explored in poems such as "Home Stay","Poem On The Occasion of My MRI", and "River".
Gospel song and elegiac chorus; sex and chickens; "vegetable ethics" and a "hemorrhagic butterfly". There is no room for boredom with Mistaking The Sea For Green Fields. Ashley Capps's collection reveals a poet capable and defined--a book worthy of recommendation for purchase and study by poets and non-poets, alike.
Natasha Kochicheril Moni resides in the Puget Sound where she writes poetry, works as an LMP, and acts as an assistant editor for
Crab Creek Review. Her work is regularly published in journals including: Verse, Pebble Lake Review, and Poetry Southeast. For more information please visit her website at www.natashamoni.com