Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Joy Street--Laura Foley

Laura Foley's latest book of poetry was a lovely way to start a wintery morning with a cup of tea. The collection mixes it up a bit, with prose poems interspersed among the free verse. At just 36 pages, it's the reader's equivalent of a long walk on the beach--a refreshing way to gain a new perspective on life.

This is the poetry of a woman who has been through some tough times and come out the other side a wiser and more self confident person. Foley alludes to a difficult childhood in "Ghost Street," but, as in the poem, she doesn't wish to go back there. This collection is focused on the future, on new love, and on moving gracefully into middle age.

One of the things that draws me to poetry is the way it can show the impact of an ordinary moment in a life. Foley pulls this off beautifully. My favorite example of this is "Dinner Party,"a prose poem in which Foley describes a party where she (the only poet among mostly lawyers) hasn't spoken a word in two hours. When the conversation finally turns to a topic she knows something about (burial, as it happens), she thinks she's found her chance to jump in:
"I will leap in with the story of how we buried my husband in the front yard, dug the hole ourselves--Yes, it's legal in New Hampshire, Yes, I got a vault. I'll sound smart, resourceful, witty, and everyone will like me."
But before she gets a chance to speak, the conversation moves on and the moment is over--a lost opportunity most of us can certainly relate to. Foley follows the conversation as it evolves:
"Someone's talking cat coffins, asking, maple or pine?--or shiny walnut and Thai mahogany with hot pink satin lining--"
leading away from the opportunity to connect, and towards the trivial. The poem ends with the effect of the shared experience with her new partner, Clara:
"Clara, shy and quiet, too, smiles as I do all through dinner, though she tells me later she could have explained about ashes, the ease of letting go." 
The incident seems to have brought them closer through their distance from the others.

Most of the poems have a positive spin to them, without veering too close to the edge of light and fluffy. My only complaint about the collection is that I wanted more. When a poem hints at a larger incident, it can be intriguing or it can leave the reader with a sense of an unfinished story. In some cases, I felt lost with only one moment drawn from what must have been a monumental event. I could have read a whole book about Foley's partner's brain surgery, for example, but instead we just get references to it in a couple of poems. Maybe I'll have to wait for the next collection. Luckily, there are three previous collections of Foley's work to tide me over in the meantime.

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For Other Reviews, check out these links on the book tour schedule:

I’d Rather Be at the Beach
Lit and Life
Book Dilettante
Savvy Verse and Wit
Diary of an Eccentric
It’s All About Books
Unabridged Chick – review and interview
Peeking Between the Pages
Peeking Between the Pages – author guest post
Patricia’s Wisdom
Books Without Any Pictures

Wednesday, January 21st: Suko’s Notebook
Thursday, January 22nd: Suko’s Notebook – author guest post
Tuesday, January 23rd: Bookgirl’s Nightstand
Saturday, January 24th: Wordy Evidence of the Fact
Monday, January 26th: Bell, Book & Candle
Wednesday, January 28th: Musings of a Bookish Kitty – author guest post
Thursday, January 29th: Musings of a Bookish Kitty
TBD: Everything Distils Into Reading