Sunday, July 22, 2018

Window Left Open by Jennifer Grotz Redefines Long Lines

I picked up a copy of this oversized (7 inches tall by 9 inches wide) book of poetry at Kramer's Books in DC,
and so glad I did. As an obsessed poet for most of my life (after my grandmother showed me her Kenneth Rexroth translations of Li Po and Tu Fu, and forgive the old-fashioned spellings), I look for new poets (to me) whose works teach different axes for entering the genre. This becomes progressively more difficult. So after scanning a few pages of this tome, my brain exploded and resettled into new patterns. I've already written a new poem organized somewhat after Jennifer Grotz's model in window left open.
This is to say the book invites readers in as participants rather than the author giving lectures that show off word acrobatics. Yes, many of the poems begin in natural settings, which is my bias, but nothing stops there. These are dynamic poems with many strategies to approach metaphors. Some are plain, like "...those/were the days when going outside felt like going inside" ("The Forest," 5). Some are fancy, like "What do daisies see with their feathery eye?" and about moths: "...perched tightly together like carnations, a fidgeting corsage of little engines. ..." ("Window Left Open," 45).
Also compelling is how the poet's lines loll across white space, unforced and unhurried, but never flat. Patterns arise and subside. The commentary is informative, adage-like pronouncements without ego. An example is how the poem "Locked" begins, "And yes it is necessary to admit/walking in the forest/the heart is a lock...." (6). The self-depracatory tone is natural and creates dialogue. This book was published in 2016, so it is not the newest new. For me, though, it is a book that will stay on my reading shelf a long time.
Jennifer Grotz is the author of two previous poetry collections. She teaches at the Univ. of Rochester and in the low-residency MFA program at Warren Wilson College, and she serves as the assistant director of the Bread Loaf Writers' Conference. 
Window Left Open by Jennifer Grotz, Graywolf Press, 2016, 64 pp., $16.00 isbn 9781555977306