Review by Mindy Kronenberg
In an interview in Literary Mama this past spring with editor Christina Consolino, Allison Blevins shared “As a mom, I have to sneak in moments to write. I write while sitting at a stoplight, pumping gas, waiting in the school pick-up line. Everything comes out as a line or phrase. Sometimes I just write titles. Often I have pages of images. When I start to get a feel for what the book wants to be, then I start thinking about the work as individual pieces and a collection. That is when the reader enters. I often think about what poems I wish I had read on the topics I struggle with. What words would have gotten me through tough moments? The best poems enter your body and you think with them forever…”
The sense of urgency, time, and self-emergence are interwoven eloquently throughout Slowly, Suddenly, and life events are summoned/reimagined by the reader while experiencing the poet’s odyssey of finding a way to motherhood, seeking trust in love, rallying against illness, and reconciling with the past. Pivotal moments and rites of passage are often summoned in an Ephrastic fashion, inspired and taking shape from abstract paintings or forced cultural icons. The effect can be visceral and surreal, but strangely confident in tone as if one is recounting a dream in a lyrical transcription. It echoes the startling work by Anne Sexton, words that float between fragile emotions and certain craftmanship.
There is also a synesthetic sensibility within some passages, stark and palpable and immediate, as in “Slowly/Suddenly” and the trials of MS:
How might fuchsia settle to rest on my open arms? Green—unbreakable
green—come to rest in my marrow? Inside this hospital room, I’m embarrassed
for gratitude, the grandeur of my hope. In the electric pain, the blackblack center
of the pain, is a silence I can’t explain to you now. I won’t ever know how to say
silence, stripped naked in the glass, entered my room. [p 28]
An intense, trembling musicality is released throughout these poems, reconciling with the confounding authority of the dictates of the emotional world. In “How it Feels to Unravel” we are told:
Imagine a simple cadence, people begin clapping as if living outside the beat is unbearable, each of us a ripped page. My sternum wants to crack from the cage,
to unravel. Push two fingers deep into the breast, try to numb the ache.
One day, my daughters will spoil: my inner voice will become theirs, we will
collect our female thoughts together like daisies: I am ugly. I am flawed. [p 38]
In “Moored,” we have lines filled with palpable and poetic imagery, a meditation on motherhood amidst personal challenge:
Becoming a mother has changed my hands. My trembling
hands betray me when I reach. I’m middle aged. I’m sinking.
I no longer belong to a world envious of objects
that never hint at death. Our world shrouds mothers
in waves; mothers wear the water till it thins and tatters
our edges, our skin transparent as nightgowns,
our bodies like a sea of humming bees. [p 43]
“Doorway of the Mother” unfolds with stanzas that are reverential but attentive to the human dynamic of maternity:
A mother on fire sits up and smiles through the flames.
I will be with you wherever I go.
A mother under the knife cups nothing in her hands.
You are made of me. You are dawn
and wind and dirt climbing free
from the earth. You are made of me.
A mother dances, stomps. A mother
dances like a saxophone taps.
I carry your heart. I’ve eaten your heart.
I’ve eaten myself eating your heart. Don’t worry.
I gather your tears and eat those too.
Slowly, Suddenly catches and captures our full attention to the moving, frightening, exhilarating, and reaffirming journey through womanhood to motherhood. Blevins has bravely shared her own journey as a woman, succeeding in her pursuit of creating poems that “…enter your body and you think with them forever.
by Allison Blevins
Vegetarian Alcoholic Press (2021)
66 pp., paper
Mindy Kronenberg is an award-winning poet and writer with numerous publication credits world-wide. She teaches writing, literature, and arts subjects at SUNY Empire State College, publishes Book/Mark Quarterly Review, is editor of Oberon poetry magazine, and the author of Dismantling the Playground (Birnham Wood), Images of America: Miller Place (Arcadia), and OPEN, an illustrated poetry book (Clare Songbirds Publishers).