Review by Barbara Crooker (email)
The Word Works, PO Box 42164, Washington, DC 20015;
In this, her first full-length collection, Rosemary Winslow weaves a web of both darkness and light, terror and joy, violence and loss, trauma and redemption, using filaments that are delicate, yet have enormous tensile strength. She writes about growing up in a painfully difficult family, giving us lessons on how to love the unlovable in poem after poem that express "the terrible complexity of love." (Baron Wormser) Lyric and meditative, these poems bear witness to an almost unbearable family history, in a small quiet voice that never preaches, but speaks of love and forgiveness of that which is truly unforgivable.
The shattered lines echo the shattering experience, and the lack of punctuation adds to the chaos and frenzy of this aptly named poem. The other poems in this section follow the same pattern, or lack thereof, ending with the pivotal "Four Five Six. . . ."These are dark poems, dealing with themes of a terrifying father ("an angry log sunk on the davenport,")(" Linden"), a remote mother ("I never saw him kiss her," "her eyes up close were large, they had / a sadness deeper than I could fathom then" ("Mother, Then and Now")), and sexual molestation by the grandfather ("Sheep" and "Carnal"). Robert Frost wrote how "we shall be known by the delicacy of where we stop short," and Winslow exemplifies this with lines like these, after her mother's father-in law (ie her grandfather) tried to rape her:
Color does not play a significant part here, except for a hint of green in "Apples," foreshadowing what will come in Section III.
There is the green that "melted and spread / over me" in "The Day" and the hummingbirds whose "green bodies" are "two shimmering leaves / soft fire" ("Transport").
And so is forgiveness, as in this poem about her father, "Naming the Trees":
The title of the cover art is "Prayer Web II," done by the poet's husband, John Winslow, and it could not be more fitting. An abstract steely web forms a grid over a collage of bodies, some bent, perhaps by pain or grief, some dancing, in strength or joy. The background is an appropriate forest green. Winslow's book draws our attention to both the strength and fragility of connections, Frost's "countless silken ties of love and thought" that bind us not just to our own family, but to the family of humankind. Despite the weight of sorrow, the darkness of violence, Winslow tells us that there is a "web of perpetual light / holding us so gently we don't even know,"("Palomino") and she does this through these remarkable poems whose quiet beauty will haunt us long after we put the book down.
Barbara Crooker's book, Radiance, won the 2005 Word Press First Book Award, and was a finalist for the 2006 Paterson Poetry Prize. Line Dance is forthcoming from Word in early 2008. Her poems appear in a variety of literary journals and many anthologies, including Good Poems for Hard Times (Garrison Keillor, editor)(Viking Penguin). She has won a number of awards, including the WB Yeats Society of NY Prize (Grace Schulman, judge), the Thomas Merton Poetry of the Sacred Prize (Stanley Kunitz, judge), and the Rosebud Ekphrastic Poetry Award.
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