Max Wheat reviews Lois Walker’s book of poems (and Coffeeehouse)

April 29, 2008 at 6:29 am 1 comment

Hope you will be there this Friday…On Friday, May 2nd at 8pm PeaceSmiths present poet, artist and sculpture Lois V. Walker, and the choir Harmonic Insurgence.

One of PeaceSmiths many strengths is that it is a place where very cool, and kind of alternative-to-the-corporate-culture artists network. We are very pleased to share the following review of Lois V. Walker’s book, written by another friend of PeaceSmiths, Nassau County Poet Laureate, Maxwell Corydon Wheat, Jr.

Lois V. Walker
“Pandora’s Box: Collected Poems”
The Studio, Amityville, NY

Part of poetry’s enjoyment is coming across lines that stop you and compel your complete amazement. Lois V. Walker’s 232-page book is certainly a “Pandora’s Box” of combinations of words jumping out for your excitement and pleasure. Here is one such line from her poem, “The Classic Impulse”: “dip your fingers in the sky/ surround my search with arms/ a spread of summer rain.” That is an example of the extraordinary language that characterizes contemporary American poetry and Long Island poetry.

There is no issue about this being a chapbook or a book. It is 239 pages of solid book, strong poems and art (her vividly pigmented, dark, surreal pictures) encased in strong white stock.

Freshness of language is what keeps appearing whether the style is Plain, Colloquial, Costumed (fascinating similes and metaphors), Surreal. She uses them all.

Enjoy this medley of her interesting lines: “I turned my back/ and walked away from you/ carrying unopened packages/ into empty rooms/ I cannot fill.”( Plain-“On Meeting the Enemy, When Found Dead”); “Feeling righteous and cheated,/ they’ll want revenge,/ certain I’ve caught you/ with some cruel magic–/ sprinkled salt upon your tail. . .” (Colloquial-“The Nightingale”); “The statue turns, /and turning, turns on me/each cold snake,/ the shifting curves/ of this reality. . .”(Costumed/Metaphor-“Laocoon”), “I lie down/ on the hill of my mother/ with this late night/ of falling stars/ and gather seeds of light/ a catch of sky.” (Costumed/Metaphor-“The End of August”); “What creature/ would toss this cracked sun/ into my room/ where it oozes/ liquid fire/ over the bed/ where we–/ scratched by starfish/ at the shore–/ had hidden our eyes/ to explore again.” (Surreal-“What Creature”).

Sometimes it is difficult to categorize her poems, which is a poetic virtue. This practice endows a Walker poem with a subtlety that one feels to be lovely. And you can come away from such a poem dwelling on its ambiguity. Consider her poem. . .

On One Day

There is a sight the sun can open
on one day in October.
Lifting out a leaf, raising up
a tree (all round) to touch the sky,
giving up the grass to light each
blade apart and losing the flock
in shadows to find a perfect lamb.
She describes commonly reported life experiences with startling new approaches. Take spring that “bursts out” in so much poetry. You’d think she’d have been tempted with another such cliche in a book entitled “Pandora’s Box.” No way from a mind as original as Ms. Walker’s. Yet, her spring poem with its compelling language (not the cliche idea of spring) is a “leaping-out.”

Spring Lovely: Pushing

Spring kisses me with green
and wraps me round and round
with the smell of damp beginnings.
After the quiet, the chrysalis
has given way to a sticky
presence, pungent. . . endlessly
prearranged. Between
the silence of ingrowing
and the patterned spread of wings
labor has come as a
multitude of small
aggressions. Every year
the honest breath of early
spring fills my lungs full
and being born again
is lovely, pushing out.

Her freshness of language comes from her many curious subjects, for example, poems about riding Pullman cars in the ’30s. She offers a set called “Train Rides: 1934,” — the one to California dealing with a couple’s relationship: two passing trains whose tracks become the palm reader’s “life lines.” Walker writes that “Two trains come closer, but/no matter, we remain/long lines apart except/for samidat and weight/of language set precisely/on the edge where our life lines/ cross, recross his poems, her words/ of witness and survival.” Ms. Walker gives us several poems with sets of poems. In MONOLOGUES OF VENEZUELA she writes in one set, “Aragueny Tree,” that “Hot, I imitate the sun./ Celebrate oh lord of every kind/ this ritual burning three times/ with a yellow fire of flowers/ to light the jungle with my love.”

She writes about poets: Marvin Bell. M. Hopkins, E. E. Cummings and “Mr. Hardy”. She talks about seeing ” a common bird. . .

Mr. Hardy
shakes the rusty cage.”

Yes, there is a variety of how the poems appear on the page. For example, sometimes, the title is off to the side, this occurring in groups of poems. A series of poems can resemble a play script.

Enjoy the rich gamut of poetic variety delightfully jumping out for you in Lois V. Walker’s “Pandora’s Box.”

Maxwell Corydon Wheat, Jr.
Poet Laureate
Nassau County, New York


Entry filed under: Amityville, Coffeehouse, Friends, Long Island, music, PeaceSmiths Calendar, performers, poetry. Tags: , , , , , .

Saturday, May 17th: George Mann in Bellport Wed. May 28th at 7:30: PeaceSmiths Membership Meeting

1 Comment Add your own

  • 1. Paula Curci  |  August 6, 2016 at 8:54 am

    It was a joy to read this reivew from Maxwell, who himself exemplifies the intense power a poet can have on his enviornment. He is missed greatly from the Long Island poetry landscape.

    Only last nigtht I was greatful to hear Lois, reading about gestures, at an open mic at SIP THIS. Wanting to read more of her work, I googled her and found this page. She, as is Maxwell, a treasure! This piece honors her well.

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