by Chris Collins,
Fire To The Looms Below
by Liliane Welch
Post Your Opinion
by Maurice Mierau
WITH Earthworks Thistledown Press launches New Leaf Editions, a series of poetry books by new writers. Chris Collins`s back-cover photograph, black and white and in profile, makes him look remarkably like Dylan Thomas; whether or not this was intentional, quite a few of the poems have Thomas-like qualities. In a poem called "Herthspring," Collins sounds like he`s overdoing his version of Thomas. In "Newscenes Less Soundspeak" there is the same fascination with sound play, and heavy shades of e.e. cummings: "soundown stifles ragecries death-anthems / arcadelike roarless shellspurts." One expects a young writer to wear his influences on his sleeve, and there are points at which Collins demonstrates better- assimilated influences as well. Usually this is when he writes in a direct and ironically romantic vein, as in "Fleshing":
Can we hold each other in words teach me to peel an orange with your teeth In "Hall" Collins again shows his facility for complex emotional effects created with simple diction: "my father is all I haven`t learned."
There is a refreshing energy in this collection, fanned by surrealist outbursts (as in "Air Show") and bits of social satire: "Utopia Must Be Here -- So Where Are the Jobs?" is a nice tonal shift from some of the more romantic pieces. Collins`s exuberance is enjoyable ("subtlety is a step in the grave," he writes in "One Night") and Earthworks is a varied, intense debut. Where Earthworks fails in maturity, Collins frequently compensates with his wit and energy. Liliane Welch`s Fire to the Looms Below is her 10th collection of poetry. She has a disciplined, terse style that is intermit tently effective. Her thematic concerns in this volume are sexuality, marriage, and legendary authors and characters: Gwendolyn MacEwen, Emily Dickinson, Sylvia Plath, Emma Bovary, and Eve are among her mostly female subjects.
Sometimes the terseness of style leads to flattened poetic effects, as in "Operation," which describes a woman`s reactions to her mastectomy: "She lies awake with one breast. / Daybreak: sharp sunlight, / cars roar." "An Affair" is a somewhat amusing description of a middle-aged husbands extramarital fling, but again there`s a kind Of unfortunate emotional distancing: For five days he`s a merchant in an old Dutch painting, Memories flirt with him, he leans again on his wife. "Grandmothers: Two Photos in Spring," creates a more solid link between technique and feeling in this description of children being photographed with their grandmothers: Those small saints of love, grateful for the warmth of touch first vibrations of a pure sun, glimpse heaven...
Welch`s clipped lines also work well in poems like "Past the Fiftieth Summer," where she writes: "I buy tenses / The words turn their faces. / The pages clear." The long cycle at the end, "Inaccessible Peaks", has its moments, but there are lines such as "the void is our guardian angel" that seem like melodramatic translations of Rimbaud. I`m left with the feeling that Fires to the Loom Below would be a more satisfying book if it had been more carefully edited.