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Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Book Review: She'd Waited Millennia

Minute by Minute, Life

She’d Waited Millennia, by Lizzie Hutton
New Issues Press, 2011.
Review by Debrah Lechner

Lizzie Hutton’s She’d Waited Millennia has a heartbeat. It measures both interior and exterior moments, the moments that create change and growth, the moments that we suffer through, and the long moments through which we can only wait. This poet considers life in its various ages and moments dispassionately, almost surgically, and she isn’t afraid to talk about identity in terms of lies and the decisions we make about what we choose to be true. In “Pollen, Cross-Pollen” Hutton recalls an incident in which a teacher implied the speaker thought the speaker had been molested by her father, and although it wasn’t true, the speaker didn’t correct the teacher:

I think it was rather that I wanted, fairly idly,
to see how it felt, like the princess, to let
an untruth float like pollen in that afternoon’s sun.

Those were the days of testing who I was with others.
I hadn’t yet ambered to my present self-involvement,
my intricate devices of justification

The insight Hutton has into these moments of unfinalized individualization is a valuable emotional and intellectual experience. Perhaps I appreciate even more the fine technique that enhances her lyricism, particularly in “Rose Gold and Poppies.” In the poem, she interweaves two passages in time: one that happened when she was 28, and one when she was 35. At 28, she’s speaking of the manufacturing of a beloved ring of rose gold. At 35, she’s describing a slaughterhouse, which is an ironically pastoral interlude with her child who is playing with a new generation of piglets.

Even so, the sloping pebbled road was beautiful
at night.
The wallpaper designs were rolled
in repeating frames.
I couldn’t tell, though, if

Their squeals were greedy grunts or pained
machine-sliced and cut to size, formed into rings
and put to harden―
even wondered if it was themselves

They ever ate
―like cannoli shells on slender tubes,
my-finger-shaped. Oh stacks of small mid-whistle mouths
lustrous with emotion.

This is the kind of play with language that only poetry offers, and when a poem can be lyrical, narrative, completely comprehended and at the same time rearrange the world entirely, it pleases the literary mind in a deeply satisfying way―and perhaps creates new neural pathways.

“Rose Gold and Poppies,” this one poem, is more than enough reason to add She’d Waited Millennia to your collection, and you can obtain it at the usual venues, including online.

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