Anne Whitehouses author of The Refrain has had her newest book of poems Meteor Shower reviewed by Ilka Scobie in the November/December 2016 issue of the American Book Review. The following is an excerpt:
“Shooting Stars” by Ilka Scobie. A review of Meteor Shower by Anne Whitehouse.
A poem can’t free us from the struggle of existence, but it can uncover desires and appetites buried under the accumulating emergencies of life.
Tempering personal fulfillment with inner peace may be one of the may be one of the more abstract pleasures of aging. In her latest collection, Anne Whitehouse examines and celebrates quotidian twenty-first century life from a distinctly wise female perspective. Divided into six sections, these finely wrought poems resonate with honest unrestrained emotionalism.
Many of the poems investigate domestic detail, from never saccharine salutations addressed to family, meditations upon relationships, even a mouth-watering menu for a summer time feast…Although Whitehouse lives in New York, a reverence for nature animates much of her work…If form and language are metered, the intensity is not. It’s precisely this mature passion that ignites Whitehouse’s work, echoing a lifetime of experience and observation. “Scenes from California” finds the poet near the ocean, where she concludes:
Past mossy trees tangled in vines
and lichen-covered fences of an old farm
lies a ribbon of brown sand
without beginning or end.
Much in this volume is rooted in real life. An adept wordsmith, Whitehouse plays skillfully with language and pens lines like
Sunwashed, seastruck, windswept
Sunstruck, seaswept, windwashed
Sunswept, seawashed, windstruck
in the delicious reverie, “An Afternoon Nap.”
Interestingly, the poet chooses widely varied personas to write in. Her award-winning poem “Calligraphies” succeeds beautifully in transporting the reader to “the old days in China” when “we could hear artillery batteries/firing into the mist at the island/that still resisted the mainland.” After the Cultural Revolution, the son tells us his father “…would take sticks/and write calligraphy once more/in puddles on the ground/that would disappear/as soon as it was written,/leaving invisible skeins of sorrow/in the changing reflections/of cloud and sky on water.”
A sculpture to Peruvian victims of the armed conflict of the late twentieth century is the subject of “The Eye that Cries.” Via Whitehouse’s lines, the reader sees the…mourners, “Those strangers with dark, wrinkled faces/and bowler hates, their legs bowed/as if they’d just stopped off a ship/into the fogs of the coastal capital.” Inspired by a Cuban cookbook, “My Cuba” captures the voice of an exile who says, “an impossible thought/like the idea of a life I might have had,/had my grandparents not left.”
Now, more than every, we need poetry for strength and solace. Whitehouse’s contemplative talismans transport the reader to a place where, hopefully, “Your mistakes will force you/beyond imagination/to something new.” From “Creativity.”