THROATS FULL OF GRAVES
poems by Gillian Prew
Lapwing Press, 2013
“…like every papery human trying to remain intact
or acclimatize graciously to the summary of their scars. They say
scars are beautiful,
beautiful as moments in white dresses and combed hair
like all good brides…”
Gillian Prew, from I Have Moved Away
In her poetry collection Throats Full Of Graves Gillian Prew talks of marrying silences and fears. Prew talks of marrying. Two this, two that, throughout. She seems preoccupied with merger, and how it necessitates that one, or half of one, go missing. Brides, graves, and grief accumulate in an unveiling that announces, presently, it has always been present. Pervasive is the aesthetic of thinness. Graves become markers to make us where we’re not. Brides become representations of how names make the words they’re based on disappear.
This book moves, but is not restless. It is, what? It is steeped within. Its first two poems, respectively, begin Out of sound, / Out of winter, and those titles become Upon Waking, then Leaving April, then The Fourth Epitaph. As here, there is a care in the sequencing in the whole of the book that makes it a let breath darkly ribboning toward a white hiccup reprieve.
“…her lit loss burns in her brain
scorching the slow madness of her days”
from Essence of a Protracted Wound
For all the included seasons and dates and departures, Prew doesn’t let time and place pass without shrouding them with permanence.
“The graveyard has no heart or history a terrible now
of poor hours…”
from September 4th (someone’s wedding anniversary)
…blood-lit with history’s amplified rage.”
from The Recession of Summer
What is the imagist to do when the twin gifts of vision and vision duel for the same abyss? Prew has questions. They are billed together in her poem Cat Eyes and the Tragedy of Mother:
“Could I marry these two sharp silences?
…Are they cat eyes or a brace of griefs fresh
from the hunter’s recreation?”
Other words occur. Febrile. Imago. Prew offers the mind, and it the body. From Beyond This Skin:
“These thin breasts each a grief:
plump-robbed and plucked dead
like two starved birds.”
If union, then absence. The book, its writing, the book, its sharing. But Prew’s voice isn’t content with mere reportage. She welcomes herself into shadow and signals her location not as absence but as its stunt double.
“The past a forlorn ghost more delicate than cold;
a white flimsy paling to the poverty of a paper bowl.
Why no thrift of melancholy while chasing the worm?”
from Reading Dylan thomas While It Snows
The poems in this book are small, clear, and heavy. You won’t lose them, not even in your “bravest despair” below the “migrating bird with its entourage of woe.” They are steeped within and resumed.
review by Barton Smock