First collection of poems by Canadian writer Susan Goyette, The True Names of Birds, from Brick Press, 1998. Pristine copy available for price of shipping, $2. Otherwise, you can purchase the book here.
The poems of this collection about a recent widow turn daily domesticity into prayers to keep a family safe, or to bring it back. Moments of heartbreak circumvented, but made obvious by their outline. Moments of grace carefully and lovingly detailed and cherished in the face of loss. Goyette's poems tend toward shapeliness, often displaying very even stanzas of free verse. Sweeping statements pop up in inverted narratives and series of surreal logic. Well within the tradition of women's poetry that invokes witchiness and examines family dynamics, The True Names of Birds is at times fairy tale-ish, and involves a good deal of garden and herb imagery.
From "On the Road Crossing the Island,"
has filled my shoes with birthstones
and turned my mother into a full
length mirror. There's no point
in trying to cover the flaws."
From "The moon on Friday night"
"...It coaxed buttons
to the lips of buttonholes and whispered, 'you're beautiful,
so beautiful' to women who speak the vernacular
My favorite poems are "The Mythology of Cures," and "Again to Be a Daughter." The memories of the family built together, and the thought of the children who are grown and gone, and female contemporaries who remain close sustain the widowed speaker in her ability to go forward after loss. As a new mother/poet, The True Name of Birds reminds me to relish my time in the face of what can, and eventually will happen. Carpe diem, I guess. I'm going to hug my husband and call my mom.