Review by Mary Meriam
by Gail White
David Robert Books
PO Box 541106
Cincinnati, OH 45254-1106
2008, 80 pp., $17.00
Encountering a poet and her book of poems for the first time, I find myself fascinated by the slow emergence of the book’s persona. In a book of formalist poems, the persona can be seen in stanzas, like the rooms of a house. Though she may be working with received forms, these are rooms of the poet’s own creation, and she is free to move in and through the rooms as she wishes. Who is this persona? What is she moved by? How does she move through her rooms? For women have always had less space in which to move. Does the enclosure of the form open outward or spiral inward?
The poems in Gail White’s Easy Marks are marked by a central persona known as “woman,” in this case a highly intelligent woman aware of the restrictions around her and the prejudices against her. She’s an outsider, she may have disappeared, she may be a ghost, but she has plenty to do in her rooms, as we can see in this powerful poem:
The Disappearance of Mary Magdalene
At Pentecost, she’s gone. Her tongue of fire
had come already, scorching Peter’s brain
with a subtle whisper, “I have seen the Lord.”
Then, not another sound. As if she knew,
with her next breath, Peter was taking charge:
this movement was for men. There’d be no chair
for her in their tight circle.
Underground, her faith ran like a waterfall. She lived
a hermit’s life. If women sought her out,
their stories thumped like washing on the rocks,
buckets in wells. Theirs was a gospel word
that shunned the daylight—tales Paul never heard.