Review by Carole Mertz
William Carlos Williams wrote in Spring and All (in 1923) that the heavy process of creating anew “begins to near a new day.” Of all the volumes mothers have written about their children and their experiences of motherhood, Marie Gauthier, with Leave No Wake, proves it is yet possible to share new thought and new creativity about this profound and universal experience, that of the parent who parents responsibly and lovingly.
In creativity “everything IS new,” Williams further states. Gauthier’s syntax, and her genuine sentiment towards mothering, makes things new. Many of the poems in this collection combine moments of motherhood with the poet’s personal observation of nature which surrounds her. I appreciate her extension of the creative writing tradition and the beauty of her verses.
The feeling-tone in many of these poetic narratives (all non-rhymed) tends to be gentle, even serene. Many of her lines exhibit delight in ‘the child.’ Some bear titles that lead one to expect religious themes. However, by surprise, they treat instead the everyday experience. Such titles include “Psalm 51: Antiphon,” “Vespers,” “All Saints’” (with its puzzling apostrophe), and “Genesis.” Many deliver satisfying surprises at the ‘turn’ of the poem.
Looking at “Psalm 51: Antiphon,” (p.29) we find these lines in the first stanza:
Grace falls, a sibilance of snow, curls
Tufts among violets you crush.
And in the fifth stanza:
Grace, the sharp thrust of air you pass through
On your way to somewhere else.
In the middle of this delicate poem, grace pools “in the pillowed hollows” of the young child’s neck. I searched, but this poem had not been printed prior to this publication; it ought to have been. The Biblical Psalm 51 begs for mercy and cries for a renewal and a pure heart. Gauthier’s antiphon offers a fine response, blending its concept of grace with the purity of snow.
Her poem “The Minor Saints Make Do” (p.53) shares concepts I don’t fully understand. In it the “prophecies” and the afterlife have “come & gone.” However, they “sing stone, sing stars–/ and the old griefs shudder and fall.” From this, I gain a vague sense of the long line of History (perhaps Biblical Time) and its effect on us.
Within another of the many good poems in Gauthier’s Section III, she writes of the daughter (who lacks two front teeth). She describes their spring morning, (p.72):
The chickadees love / her song. They chirp back, flitting from branch to branch. In this way / love repeats from our home to the trees, / to the sky, returns to our home to the trees, / to the sky, something we keep and give away.
We can readily see how Gauthier’s pen makes things new. This, even though she, as did Williams, writes within a pandemic and a period of war. You will enjoy spending time reading Leave No Wake as you allow Gautier’s gentle nature to engulf you.
Leave No Wake by Marie Gauthier
Pine Row Press, 2022
Carole Mertz, author of Color and Line, and her best-selling chapbook Toward a Peeping Sunrise (at Prolific Press), writes in Parma, OH where she shares her writing life with her pastor husband. Carole is editorial assistant at Kallisto Gaia Press and Book Review Editor at Dreamers Creative Writing.