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spacer.gif   CONSTANCE VOGEL'S "THE MULBERRY"
Posted by : cj on Sunday, December 05, 2004 - 11:08 PM
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Chicago Poetry Reviews: Click Headlines .
The Mulberry
by Constance Vogel
Finishing Line Press
Reviewed by C. J. Laity


This bittersweet collection of 17 related poems explores the grief and confusion felt by a mother who has lost her daughter. Like the crippling effects of shock, the poetry in this 22-page limited collector's edition is sparse, reflective, and in search of some deeper meaning from a tragedy brought on by nature. The author seems tormented by the symbolism surrounding her, symbolism that offers no real answers. She sees death in a burnt out light bulb or in a missing cat; she searches for Mary in the color yellow or in the river that "flows as always":

I wonder of a sudden parting
of the water,
a sun ray through the thatch
will tell me where you went
and why so soon.

(from "Stone")

In her state of mourning, everything before her eyes (not excluding flashbacks of vivid memory) becomes cruel metaphor, reminding her of her daughter, as if the world were trying in vain to explain its mysteries to the limited human understanding:

A cloud-like silhouette of swarming bats
swooped down upon the gnats and moths,
then disappeared as quickly as they fed
like scarves into a sorcerer's black sleeve.

(from "The Cave")

In the absence of any clear answer as to where her loved one has gone, the author sees her daughter everywhere, in everything:

So imperceptibly did you withdraw
I did not see your image fading
like the moon waning to a crescent.

(from "Smoke")

She especially finds her daughter within the objects left behind, an earring, a photo, or a book, and even within the objects that can only be found in her mind's eye:
Where is the jacket
You once tossed on a chair?
The face-down book,
pot of soup that simmered

(from "A Month Later")
The author makes her case, in whispers, not shouts, for her right to determine for herself when it is time to stop mourning:
I am not ready

for red and purple tulips
screaming shades of green

(from "Spring")
At the center of the theme, life goes on, as the same Mulberry tree that is struck by lightning at the beginning of the book once again bears fruit at the center of it:

When the tree stirs again and green celled pips appear,

ripen to red, I look for you
gathering berries there, laughing

as you eat whole handsful
until juice runs down your chin

through your fingers and disappears
into the brown and thirsty earth.

(from "Mulberries")

Absent of anger, these heart-warming poems speak to anyone who has experienced loss. Moving in their gentleness and honesty, they do not pretend to offer solutions; instead they simply document the pain suffered in silence and the longing to recover in one's own time:

Is it a crime to slow down
on this deserted two-lane road
to contemplate the sun path
across the icy lagoon

(from "The Other Side")

The recipient of the Joann Hirschfield award for her poem "Lake Effect" (which appears in this chapbook), Constance Vogel has published over 150 poems in such prestigious publications as The New York Times, Spoon River Poetry Review, After Hours and Jane's Stories. Constance Vogel remains one of Chicago's most daring, honest and talented artists. One need only explore the infinite beauty of language contained in this tiny chapbook to see that, through voices as powerful and subtle as Constance Vogel's, poetry in Chicago is more alive than ever before.

--C. J. Laity

To inquire about ordering a copy of The Mulberry, write to FinishingBooks@aol.com.

**We hope you found the information on this page useful. ChicagoPoetry.com needs your help. We are holding a fundraising drive in order to stay online. There are two ways that you can help:
Click here to offer a financial gift or click here to order the new book by ChicagoPoetry.com Press.




Note: This bittersweet collection of 17 related poems explores the grief and confusion felt by a mother who has lost her daughter.

 
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