Monday, September 07, 2009

Allegheny, Monongahela by Erinn Batykefer

This pleasing volume of poetry arrived in the mail as part of LibraryThing’s early reviewer program. Unlike others in the series, this is not a galley, but a first edition.

Her first book of poetry, I have to say, hit at least a triple, and a few feet higher at that left fence would have made it a homerun. Most of the poems have sparkling language and great metaphors, but a few seemed strained to me. My favorite is “Sky with Flat White Cloud” inspired by a 1962 painting by Georgia O’Keefe. Several other poems had the same genesis. Batykefer writes,

“I remember us through a haze of white.
Flat clouds pressing down like summer,
the botanical gardens steaming.” (76)

Anyone familiar with O’Keefe’s work will recognize the clever melding of weather, the painting, and themes that run through many of her paintings. This painting is rather plain, with bands of white (a sandy stretch of desert without any vegetation?), then a band of yellow-green at the horizon, then layers of flat white clouds at the top. The painting feels like an oppressively hot, dry summer day, and Batykefer has captured that same feeling.

All her poems ring true like this. Only a few tortured lines cost her half a star. 4-1/2 stars.

--Chiron, 9/7/09

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