June 25, 2009

Review by Rebecca Ellis

by Pamela Garvey

Finishing Line Press
Post Office Box 1626
Georgetown, KY 40324
ISBN 978-1-59924-236-1
2008, 27 pp., $12.00

If only I could’ve pinned the angel down.
But the angel is winds
sweeping through fingers like sand,
each grain gliding coldly up the arms
into the frantic heart,
then the seed tumbled through my body. Released,
I turned suddenly, as if the angel had a face,
could be pointed to in a line of men.

I wish I’d written that. It’s the ending of Pamela Garvey’s poem, “The Annunciation” — one of many breathless moments in her chapbook, Fear, that pulled me back for another reading of a poem, and another, and another.

“The Annunciation” takes on motherhood, womanhood and religion from the point of view of the woman who experiences it all, perhaps more directly than anyone else ever has. In drawing the poem from that point of view, Garvey goes so far inside the experience that each thought, each physical sensation is utterly real and fully imagined. Mary is as real as your own sister, just as physical and fragile and strong. She confronts the tangible shock of the angel, and faces forces larger than herself that invite her to something important but at the price of her own volition. She is surprised, a victim and survivor who never for a moment loses her ability to face the experience and never backs away from her power to speak about it, to declare it for what it is. And it is both more and less than she might have expected.

Garvey delivers a portrait of the woman and of the transformation, and the portrait is accessible and astonishing. Continue reading

Rattle Logo

January 27, 2009

Pamela Garvey


In only the thin fog of moonlight,
only the dull yellow bulbs lining the park’s path,
two students—unnamed, spared
from photographs—perched on coolers
and flung their cane poles into the pond, a perfect oval
with nowhere to go, little to offer:
just some overgrown goldfish and darters,
small trophies or jewels they held—
skin rubbing scales for a moment—then tossed back.
But something went wrong, and you know this happens.
And if they could unbury the moment,
what would they find? Would they tell us?
I’d like to think the last beer charmed them blind.
But what if they were living their truest moment
when they grabbed, or one grabbed, the female swan,
holding her down so the other could punch her,
kick her? They took turns bruising her
because that’s all they knew; they’d seen the pond in daylight
bruised with petals and swirling reflections of clouds
swallowing the swans into spreading shade,
and they loved the shade. Even more, they loved the night
for blurring distinctions, so when one man, one boy,
wrapped his arms around the swan’s neck, he felt her becoming
a part of himself, and he didn’t know it meant
the hunted becomes what it nourishes
but simply tore off her head and held it
the way a pet cat carries the mouse it kills
like a prize, a gift.

from Rattle #29, Summer 2008


Pamela Garvey: “Raised in the suburbs of New York, I suffered tremendous teen angst that I failed to craft into anything even close to poetry, though I called it poetry until my much wiser college professors clobbered me with the truth. The blows were softened by all the books they introduced to me. Each night I slept with the images of William Carlos Williams, Norman Dubie, Adrienne Rich, Elizabeth Bishop, Stanley Plumly … I’ve been chasing those images for years now.”

Rattle Logo