This limbo time between Christmas and New Year always seems to me to be a period for renewal and contemplation. Few things facilitate this better than a poetry collection that speaks of space, time and what it is to be human. make p
Carrie Etter’s fourth poetry collection, The Weather In Normal, is an ideal choice. A deep tenderness weaves through the pages, from the love of family to the love of place. Etter succeeds in reminding us that the breadth of her setting is echoed within the confines of each person, where rolling prairie sweeps us through the range of emotions, predilections and experiences that make up our psychological topography.
In Fatherhoodwe witness a quiet tumult of affection so understated it can’t help but move you, as her father tracks weather patterns. “By phone he told me my weather, and sometimes I listened.”
She explores winter with an appreciation for its bleak majesty, recording the ailments her aging mother attributes to its temperatures, and its wildness:
“In town it clatters the glass; it refuses and cries
like a missing bear cub
or rather, its mother.”
In this first section she also captures the grief of watching your parents age, and the need to learn to be gentle.
In part two, typographically, the poems represent the physical and cerebral vistas she writes of. A single poem comes into view gradually, with single line or clutch of stanzas awarded an entire page. Etter is a poet who understands the power of white space and silence in cradling or offering up her words, making the absence as palpable as her well-considered utterances. Her poems have room to inhale, which in turn gives us, the readers, an opportunity to exhale.
“Sometimes I explain home by drawing out the syllables
ill lih noy
and reclining in the breadth the breath of it.”
Certain poems feel only partially unearthed, so that the riches of words revealed hint at much more beneath the surface. Each phrase is a strata of rock that reaches as far below the mud as it does above.
In part three, the personal and positional become global as Etter draws her concerns about climate change to the forefront and, unflinching, shares her anxieties.
We’re being offered glimpses, to which we’re invited to add our own memories and interpretations. In this way, Etter’s able to take the deeply personal and render it universal.
We’re all human. We’re all connected to other humans, and to the terrain that cradles us. We all witness the passage and ravages of time. And we all have choices to make about these.
Etter’s fragmented lines summon our own experiences to the fore, while performing an astonishing slight of hand by sandwiching an entire world, life and landscape into a few barely indented pages.
The Weather In Normal by Carrie Etter is published by Seren Books and available to buy from Amazon.
Seen or read anything interesting recently? I’d love to know. I’m always happy to receive reviews of books, art, theatre and film. To submit or suggest a review, please send an email to judydarley(at)iCloud.com.