Monday, January 18, 2010

Pamela Alexander's SLOW FIRE is a poetry find.

At my local used bookstore last week, Dusty Bookstore, I found a 2007 copy of Pamela Alexander's latest book of poetry, her fourth (Ausable Press). Her name seemed vaguely familiar, but I couldn't place her. The biography on the back cover says she won the Yale Younger Poets prize and was nominated for a Pulitzer. She now teaches at Oberlin. The "glamour shot" author's photo was not glamorous: It shows her in a parka and headband on a mountain--pretty disguised. But the poetry was not camouflaged. It was stunning, like the first stanza of "What the Trail Says":

First, prepositions. Up, alongside,
under. Then noun: rock,
tree. Lizard.

Sentences take time. (p. 30)

I also like her ability to take my mind on a carnival ride with just a few phrases, like the first line of "Sonoran": "Sky tilts, the south enlarges." She also has one of the best jazz poems I've ever seen, "Couple at the Club," which begins:

The bass goes it alone. The bass goes
by subway. The trumpet shines and swerves,
yellow taxi breaking from the light.

There is more. This poet has been biding her time, spending time in Ontario as well as Ohio, and developing her own voice at her own pace--four books in 25 years. This is a poet.