Reviews of books “Into My Mortal”
and “The River Is Blind”
“Her (Allison Grayhurst’s) poetry appears visceral,
not for the faint of heart, and moves forward
with a dynamism, with a frenetic pulse. If you
seek the truth, the physical blood and bones, then,
by all means, open the world into which we were all born,”
Anne Burke, poet, regional representative for Alberta
on the League of Canadian Poets’ Council, and
chair of the Feminist Caucus, 2014.
“News from the Feminist Caucus, by Anne Burke
“This month, the case of York University and its handling of a male student’s
request to be excused from attending a study group with female students on
religious grounds. With reviews of Allison Grayhurst’s Into My Mortal
and The River is Blind.
Allison Grayhurst is a full member of the League of Canadian Poets. She
has more than 290 poems published in over 170 international
magazines/journals/anthologies. Her book Somewhere Falling was published
by Beach Holme Publishers, a Porcepic Book, in Vancouver in 1995.
Since then she has published ten other books of poetry and four
collections with Edge Unlimited Publishing. Prior to the publication
of Somewhere Falling she had a poetry book published, Common Dream,
and four chapbooks published by The Plowman. Her poetry chapbook
The River is Blind was recently published by Ottawa publisher above/ground press
December 2012. The reviews were written from uncorrected proofs.
Grayhurst admits,” I don’t have the patience to write a novel. I wanted to be
a writer, not a poet, but the poem is what is best for me. I’m too impatient to
put in all the cushioning that a novel needs around it to get to the point.
I just want to get right to it.”
And get to it she does, “If you’re a writer, you’re not going to let anything
stop you from writing. I wake up every morning at five-thirty to do my writing.”
Her poetry is beginning to reflect her spiritual growth or journey, in a new title
“Journey of the Awakening” (in Oh! Fall 1996, pp. 9-10.) In “The Poetry
of Allison Grayhurst”, by Blaise Wigglesworth, a third-year journalism student,
we are told,
Her poems read like the journal entries of a mystic – perhaps
that’s what they are. They are abstract and vivid, like a dreamy
manifestation of soul. This is the best way, in prose,
one can describe the music….
I had the opposite reaction. Her poetry appears visceral, not for the faint of heart,
and moves forward with a dynamism, with a frenetic pulse. If you seek the truth,
the physical blood and bones, then, by all means, open the world into which
we were all born.
Review of Into My Mortal, by Allison Grayhurst
(Edge Unlimited Publishing, 2004)
111 pp paper.
Although the iron mask resembles that of the Count of Monte Crisco,
she expresses the poetic nutrients that keep her/mind’s eye vivid (“It is told again”),
and declares, “I am thirsty, still/a poet” (“Desperation/Affirmation”). This collection
is primarily devoted to the conception, gestation, delivering, and raising of children.
A foremost wish “as we walk, born as one” (“Vacant Underground”) for a home
of three turned into four” (“SomeOne New”). As she makes room for the newborn,
she learns laughter from an unborn child (“I Do Not Try To Understand”), feels a kick,
does not fear “the boy you will be” (“Under My Skin”) or a babe that
needed constant tending (“In The Name”). Rather, she welcomes the
infant sound (“New Tree in the Garden”), harkens “little boy, welcome”
(“Six Months Pregnant”). However, she feels the weight of preparation
(“For Life”), as with a child and another child
(“Kind Escape”). There is a child’s mind: “One little girl”, “One little child”,
“One little heart” (“One Little Heart”). Elsewhere, a child is peering (“Storm”),
there are nursing infants (“Listening to the Talk”, and the hands of a child
(“Pure and Plastic”). I spot some children (“Tribe), when hope
feels like a new body (“Legacy”); children weeping (“On this Dock”),
playing games (“Mustard Seed”), changing body (“Overpass”), like my children
(“I see the things”). Birth contains the death that brings rebirth (“I Sleep
in The Rain”), “to be alive with you there (“Always There”), a child’s gift
(“Slice the Pony”), a perfect lullaby (“A Place For You”), a child watching
(“Learning Temperance”). At your stroller side (“Little boy born”),
my children (“Dad, I think of you”), and of “Siblings”, a thousand parents but
their only child (“Turned”. My children autumn born (“Into My Mortal”),
a baby’s teething (“The Bane of My Hypocrisy”), the smell of my baby’s neck
(“Just Believing”), a baby’s mouth (“What Can?”). A child surging (“Friend”),
my happy family (“Happy Summer Coming”), the thrashing of children”
(“Junkie”), the bloody aftermath (“The Thing Ahead”), children wait (“Weather”),
third birth (“The Hand That Came”), my children (“A Better Life”), two children
(“Because”), funerals and baby births (“The Flood”)
I would recommend “Six Months Pregnant”, “Born” “that wondrous child”,
“Days Before Birth” of a wonderful new creation. “Little Boy Born”,
“Son, Almost One” infant glory, and especially “Daughter Almost Five”,
a friend like no other.
Allison Grayhurst. lives in Toronto, Canada with her husband, two children,
two cats and a dog. She also sculpts, working in clay. Some of these poems
have first appeared or will be appearing in: The Greensilk Journal; Beatnick;
Pirene’s Fountain; Studio Journal; PoeticLicence; Bursting Plethora of Rainbow
Contact the author: email@example.com;
Review of The River is Blind, by Allison Grayhurst
(Edge Unlimited Publishing,
2012) 99 pp. paper.
This poetry is private, about women who can be “brutal”, “like a smile”,
as well as “gloriously giving”, razor sharp, but “androgynously/beautiful”.
In “What face?”, the embryo appears as if “you are neither/masculine
or feminine.” Throughout, she employs reiterated tropes of swallowing and
being consumed, spatial fullness and emptiness, shut-in, caverns, chasms,
cavities; angels, archangels, blasphemy, psalms; satiation or starved.
With a conceit of unrequited sex as “my desire”, nocturnal emissions,
awakening in the morning, the poet lives at capacity, uninhibited, dancing.
(“Deep Breath In”) She personifies a star as having “sweet blood” but plugged
and unwholesome. In “this prevails”, she seeks a sponge to saturate.
The extended conceit of death, using the metaphor of “a stream” which,
paradoxically, the poet must “undress” in order “to know its cool wetness”
(“Body of Water”) she implores the muse to rescue her from “this drowning”,
to be released from sleeplessness. Her lover abandoned her, sick, with sensations
of choking, near death, in a cave. She needs to soothe her despair,
mid-day, as a serpent emerges.
In “It starts”, “where water sinks or where water concentrates, “either way,
[it] falls/but does not flow.” In “Claimed”, she wants more space in
which to swim, “between clouds”. In “Box”, there are “tossing waters”,
wet breath, a stream. In “Will you keep me”, drink me, stream through
rainclouds. In ‘Seamless”, there are raincoats and rainy seasons, past
is an outpouring. In “Desires traversed”, my liquid garden. In “I turn
the corner and “wet river stones and floating. “Intimacy” is but “chilled water”.
“Our Time” involves “melting waters together.”
In “Emptied”, “a wave never crests.” In “I heard a poet say”, one sees God
everywhere, even “in the swimming pool while treading water.” In ‘Yes”,
the acts of weeping, showering, and dripping are linked. A squid’s tentacles
are “pulled from pulsing water”. (“Our Light Cannot Always Burn Whole”)
In “Matrimony” she explores the “wavelength”. In “I wait for you”,
the words are “like lard”, but “I have sky-dived into a torrent wave for you”,
now she is “drenched”. In “Surrogate Dharma”, she believes she could be
transformed as a fish, “weaving with one full-body stroke.”
She sets the scene of a phallic steeple which enters the sun’s skin,
in order to liberate “a liquid radiation”, an act which is “brutish”,
“pillaged”, “frozen”, emaciated”, “seeping”. (“Open Valve”) The same poem
culminates with “overflowing, so overflowing”
“drowns”, and “downpores”, “currents and currents”.
In “Quagmire”, the known becomes “blindness”, a drooling city,
with fluid boundaries. In “Changing Skins”, we learn that “lust is water”,
but more than lust “is worth every star.”
She confronts the afterbirth, with “a growing, encroaching wave”,
while she rests on a raft, the fish are curiously contented swimmers,
under seawater. (“Thirst”)
In damp places she observes tree bark as living wood, but she insists
on a new geography, with a private island (“I would not thirst”).
In “Myth”, outpourings are “insatiable”. The body as garden, is capable
of “rich waters”, “curvy undercurrents”, a mirage, drained of
natural oils, and, ultimately, unsatisfying due to
“this thin-stream garden hose”
The path to tranquility is paradoxically through mania:
” of our mutual exposure. I will speak in your ear and you
will step into my voice
like stepping into a river
Anne Burk, poet, regional representative for Alberta on the
League of Canadian Poets’ Council, and chair of the Feminist Caucus,