EILEEN TABIOS Engages
ORIGAMI HEART by Andrea Bates
(in Sightline, a book of four poetry chaps)
(Toadlily Press, Chappaqua, N.Y., 2010)
Meredith Trede and Myrna Goodman of Toadlily Press thought of something wonderful with their idea of publishing books comprised of four different poetry chapbooks. If their goal as publishers is to widen the market for a poet’s words, combining four in one book certainly serves, at least, to bring three poets to the attention of the initial logical audience of one poet (whether it’s her mother, child or individual poetry community). But as a result of the four-poet structure, Elaine Sexton notes in her Foreword to the 2010 collection Sightline, “Compression serves as an innovative organizing principle in this four-part collection, creating an elevated sense that every poem is vital.”
While Sexton’s statement, I assume, refers in part to how each poet only has one-fourth of the book whose 75 pages is a not uncommon length for a single poet collection, I initially was neutral towards the statement—shouldn’t all poetry collections, regardless of length, work this way? Yet, it is true that I’ve read many poetry collections of 75 pages or more and it’s not uncommon that I will come across a poem (or two, or three…) and feel it was not “vital” to the collection. And since I read Sexton’s Foreword before Andrea Bates’ ORIGAMI HEART, I brought this standard—whether each poem is vital—to my reading of Bates’ collection.
(I chose not to read all four poets together but read each poet individually, thus my review of just one of the authors in Sightline.)
ORIGAMI HEART presents poems that detail the layers to a romance, but as—and I love these lines—“…the great escape from middle age / and what it has done to us.” Most tales I’ve read about a middle-aged woman and a younger male lover come with multiple reflections on the woman’s part, perhaps second-guessing her decision, often wry—these are just the limits to my own reading experience on a topic I don’t actually seek out, but suffice it to say that there are many layers to such an experience, as hearkened too by Bates’ collection’s title. Wiki says that the goal of origami, the art of paper folding, “is to transform a flat sheet square of paper into a finished sculpture through folding and sculpting techniques.” For ORIGAMI HEART to be effective, therefore, a multiplicity of views must be presented for the overall collection to be three-dimensional (a sculpture).
By such a standard, ORIGAMI HEART succeeds. There is a novelistic (novella) feel to the tale presented by its 13 poems, from the “Fretwork” of early exploration to the details and significance of “The Wrecked Bed” to the ending “Poem for the Partially Dressed.” As the last poem, the latter concludes with the inevitable from fairy tale or fairy tale-like romances: “no matter who you’re with / love will always undo itself, embrasser and tell, / think better of it, and then simply wilt.”
It’s a satisfying read. But what makes ORIGAMI HEART fabulous is not its story but its absolutely fresh, active and sometimes luscious language. Read and feel this sense-ridden and sensuous example (click on images to enlarge):
Elsewhere, Bates shows herself adept at musical tension, to create compelling poems like this:
Bates also captures the zeitgeist with the use of electronic devices in courtship—its last line may be obvious but it packs a welcome punch!
Sexton concludes her Foreword by saying the Toadlily chapbook series presents “just enough work to get a solid sense of each writer’s poetry, and leave us wanting more!” By this standard, too, ORIGAMI HEART is successful. I am left with a poet’s name whose work has grabbed my attention and made me curious to more of her works.
Eileen Tabios does not let her books be reviewed by Galatea Resurrects because she's its editor (the exception would be books that focus on other poets as well). She is pleased, though, to point you elsewhere to recent reviews of her work. I FORGOT LIGHT BURNS received a review by Zvi A. Sesling at Boston Area Small Press & Poetry Scene; by Amazon Hall of Fame reviewer Grady Harp over HERE; and by Allen Bramhall in Tributary. Her experimental biography AGAINST MISANTHROPY: A LIFE IN POETRY received a review by Tom Hibbard in The Halo-Halo Review, Allen Bramhall in Mandala Web and Chris Mansel in The Daily Art Source. SUN STIGMATA also received a review by Edric Mesmer at Yellow Field. Recent releases are the e-chap DUENDE IN THE ALLEYS as well as INVENT(ST)ORY which is her second “Selected Poems" project; while her first Selected THE THORN ROSARY was focused on the prose poem form, INVEN(ST)ORY focuses on the list or catalog poem form. A key poem in INVENT(ST)ORY was reviewed by John Bloomberg-Rissman in The Halo-Halo Review, and the book itself was reviewed by Chris Mansel in The Daily Art Source and Allen Bramhall in Mandala Web. More information at http://eileenrtabios.com