Review of poetry chapbook “The River is Blind”

ottawa poetry newsletter


Reviewed by Ryan Pratt

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Recent Reads: Allison Grayhurst and Shannon Maguire

The River Is Blind by Allison Grayhurst
A Web Of Holes by Shannon Maguire
Both titles published by above/ground press, December 2012.
“He came. He is what everyone needs
But the pavement is thick
the ground beneath is rich
saturated with worms,
with worm motion
at worm speed.”
This stanza, snipped from the tail-end of “In the Thighs”, illustrates an existential curiosity that courses through Allison Grayhurst’s latest collection. We’ll get to the “He” part in a minute. But first, it’s Grayhurst’s physical constraints that comfort us: a box sitting at the top of the stairs, housecats in states of wakefulness and sleep, the “snails and moss” that preoccupy her. Indeed, The River Is Blind situates itself firmly in the familial but imbues those relationships and domestic touchstones with a disembodied calm. Ambition and disenchantment linger along the fences of Grayhurst’s property but she remains candidly in the present:  embracing “the comfort of sweaters and knitted socks” for “First Snow of Winter”, “the child sitting and staring and waiting for the coin” in “Wallpaper Stars”.
In lesser hands, muses such as these might’ve resulted in verses of weak-kneed contentedness. But Grayhurst’s voice remains one of detachment, webbing daily pleasures into greater meditations on love and God – the “He” that churns The River Is Blind’s family soil. Through spiritual lens, poems like “Everything Happens” and “Flies” counteract steadfast faith with insights on the material world, a separate world; a place where people grind flowers for honey. From “Flies”:
“What faith was plucked with the flowers
as all their little tongues reached out to pocket
the short-term scent?”
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