Thursday, October 07, 2010
We come to JoAnne Growney’s new book of poems, Red Has No Reason, by way of our interest in mathematical poetry and by way of Ms. Growney’s background in mathematics and in poetry and in promoting the mathematical poem. However, theorists in search of demonstrations of the analogy between the mathematical structure of the/of a mathematical operation and the grammatical structure of the poem will be disappointed, as Ms. Growney’s mathematicals are strictly by way of point of reference. This is not to state a minus, it’s to state a fact. On the plus side, we are delighted to discover in Ms. Growney’s verse a frankness and a confidence that immediately make themselves apparent:
from A Woman Is a Gallery She Can’t Stop to View
Everyone’s met someone from out of town
who says, My friend X in Baltimore
is just like you. Same hair, voice, and posture.
Even your gestures are the same.
I want to meet my double, to ask her,
Does your body hum beneath your thoughts?
Am I an easy imitation?
What’s the cost of being me?
Ms. Growney divides her book into four sections, subtitled, and with the parentheses, “(attention),” “(memory),” “(resistance),” and “(complexity).” “Complexity” is prefigured early on, in “(memory),” with the poem, “Horizon”:
All was heaven, once, and seamless —
no dark to change shine into glare,
no clouds to fear.
None were wise or ignorant, no secrets
whispered in the breeze — there were
no better days.
Apples were mere apples, mix of tart and sweet.
Silent snakes ate insects, kept their earthbound place.
Opposites had not
declared themselves: delight and sadness,
fear and comfort blended, waiting for the seeker
to awake — to attend
the dying of the brightest star,
halving of the mind by the horizon
As the subtitles suggest, there is present here a reciprocity and coordination, and the holding off of inertia. Ms. Growney’s strengths are her interiority, and she’s got that voice down pat.
again from A Woman Is a Gallery She Can’t Stop to View
At family reunions, my uncle shows old films.
Restless me before the camera, darting, stopping.
Young, natural — more lovely than she knew —
but what’s the use to know her since she’s gone.
My mother made much of helpful little girls.
Praise still persuades me; I work hard
for words withheld. On the road from my house
to hers, a truck covers me with shadow.
Red Has No Reason by JoAnne Growney.
Plain View Press
JoAnne Growney’s Blog
JoAnne Growney’s Website