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The Carribean Writer a literary journal published annually by the University of the Virgin Islands recently reviewed our title Prophets of the Morning LIght by Patricia Harkins-Pierre.
Observations on Morning Light
Patricia Harkins-Pierre, Prophets of Morning Light. Mobile, Alabama: Negative Capability Press, 2014. Trade Paperback: 73 pages.
The title of Patricia Harkins Pierre’s new poetry collection, Prophets of Morning Light, presents balanced observations of life and death, love and loss, as well as family, friends, well known personalities, society in general, and the natural environment.
The opening poem, “Church in Brittany,” presents impressions of two idealistic newly weds who walk “the cliffs/on their honeymoon,” under the church wall covered with a “faded fresco”(3), that seems to foreshadow failure. The theme of frustrated romantic relationships is further explored in the poem, “Honeymoon,” where a lover’s letter arrives from Saigon bearing unwelcomed news. Accordingly, the nervous narrator complains that the unopened letter sent by her lover feels “cold …and thin”(9).
Some poems share witty perceptions of controversial political personalities. In the poem, “Sisters in Spirit,” an association is made between two former Prime Ministers, Indira Ghandi of India, and Margaret Thatcher of Britain. These two highly visible leaders run the risk of assassination because of their radical social and economic policies. Another media celebrity, Imelda Marcos, having grown widely unpopular, harbors fantasies of disappearing from public life, in the poem, “Imelda Becomes Invisible “(32).
From reading these poems, the reader will conclude that the author is a nature lover. The lush, tropical scenery of Caribbean life seems to inspire many of the poems in the collection. The title poem, “Prophets of Morning Light”(66), celebrates the wide-winged pelicans that populate the St. Thomas harbor at dawn. Other interesting poems that celebrate tropical animals, fauna and flora include: “Wanda Under the Angel Tree” (67), “Tigers in Paradise” (37), “Christmas in Paradise “(72), “Zebralight “(36), and “Love Feast: An Island Ode” (64).
The poet also pays tribute to the former noted Caribbean-American poet and colleague, Audre Lorde, in the poems, “Telling the Truth About Audre“(40), and “Sweet Flesh, Sharp Bones” (41). In another poem, “Requiem for Gene” (53), homage is paid to former University of the Virgin Islands colleague, the late Gene Emanuel.
The poems, “Grand Mother’s Saints” (17-18), “Death by Fire” (19-20), “Driving Lesson” (21), and “Grandmother’s Stockbridge” celebrate the lives to beloved family relations.
The poems are carefully crafted; the language is lively and energetic. I had fun reading these poems.
Vincent O. Cooper
University of the Virgin Islands
Paul Baumann Reviews Lissa Kiernan’s Two Faint Lines in the Violet
Do you happen to know Faulkner's speech, on the occasion of his acceptance of the Nobel Prize? It comes to mind, as he apparently had to work a bit against the perception that his work created a pessimistic attitude. It’s a horror, to say the least, to look back, with Faulkner, to the Civil War, and to contemplate the current situation, in which his metaphors seem all the more stridently realized, "the only question now is when will I be blown up?". Nothing different has emerged from the ground that Faulkner depicted with a musical vividness.
Lissa Kiernan's book, Two Faint Lines in the Violet (Negative Capability Press, 2014), has the same fierce determination not to flinch, and the same sense of wonder, the same idea of what a poet's job is: Not to avoid reality, but to take up the most abject along with the most lulling, and to make something that stays wonderful from the materials of experience. We need to see these images of ourselves blown up, just as we need to have new, beautiful songs.
It’s been some weeks since I read it now, but its rich atmosphere along with its palpable embedments continue to resonate, being mixed now with the amazement of Absalom, Absalom, which I am now reading for the first time.
--Paul Baumann, multimedia artist
In Sweet Aegis, the latest collection of poems by Melissa Dickson, the poet breathes new life into classical mythic characters; turning carved marble into flesh, and inviting them down from their pedestals, to walk among us and give account of their lives to the amazed reader. Dickson challenges us to gaze, unflinching, into the eyes of one of Greek Mythology's most infamous monsters, and find within them, not the horror we have come to know, but a misunderstood creature twice victimized.
Through Dickson's writing, heroes and villains are drawn into the cold, often unflattering, light of modernity. Here the crime of Poseidon against the young maiden in the temple of his sister Athena is tried in the court of poetic discourse. The maiden, victimized by a deity and cursed by the goddess she cried out to for rescue, is at long last allowed her testimony. The brash youth who slew Medusa, thus securing his fame and his place in the pantheon of heroes, is revealed to be more braggart and opportunist than icon. The estranged father, who left his infant daughter in the keeping of the goddess and Medusa's two sisters, present their victim's impact statement to the jury of readers.
Dickson's poems challenge use to look deeper into the life of one of our deepest cultural myths. To gaze upon the monster whose history we have scarce considered, and in doing so, reverse the spell as the reader's stony heart begins to soften toward this much maligned creature. Gazing into the eyes of Dickson's Medusa, we experience not terror, but sympathy for her as victim rather than dread of her as a villain.
Sweet Aegis is a powerful work, casting a modern light on a classic myth. Heroic tale becomes modern allegory as the famous and infamous walk through the contemporary south. Once you have read Sweet Aegis, you will never look at Medusa and her contemporaries the same again.