August 23, 2008

Review by Karen J. Weyant

by Kathleen Tyler

The Backwaters Press
3502 North 52nd Street
Omaha, Nebraska 68104-3506
ISBN: 978-0-9793934-6-4
70 pp., $16

Palm trees swaying on sandy shorelines. Couples walking hand-in-hand into sunsets. College students going wild on spring break. Certainly, these images of Florida are often the first pictures that come to mind when we think of our Sunshine State. Kathleen Tyler’s My Florida, however, delivers a much darker landscape.

Tyler’s first poem, “Ars Poetica,” is significant to this collection. While “an art of poetry” poem seems to be a somewhat predictable way to start any collection of poetry, Tyler’s carefully measured lines serve the collection as a strong introduction:

They came on suddenly, storms did,
when I was eight. All morning I swung
upside down from a rope, arcing over
the lake. Trees strung from clouds. Hair raking
water, just beyond the snapping turtle’s bite.

Although we don’t know it quite yet, these opening lines show us what we will expect in from her collection: characters living in darkness within reach of danger. We see a landscape that seems ready to swallow a child whole, a dark world which will make its appearance again and again, along with characters eerily reminiscent of those found in the works of Flannery O’Connor.

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