Since poet, Karen George dedicates her latest chapbook of poems to her grandmother and mother, and since a photo of a mother and bride adorn the cover, reflected in the intimacy of a dresser mirror, I was prepared to read this group of poems as personal intergenerational legacy. What I was not prepared for was how completely a poet's craft can transform the personal into the magical and universal.
The Seed of Me, 2015, from Finishing Line Press is George's third chapbook. She is also the author of another title from Finishing Line, Into the Heartland, 2011 and Inner Passage, 2014, from Red Bird Chapbooks. Her first full collection, Swim Your Way Back was published by Dos Madres Press in 2014.
I read The Seed of Me expecting a tribute to the poet's mother and grandmother for nurturing a creative spirit. Instead, I read about light bodies, broken dolls, missing spleens, birthmarks, motorcycle rides, bowling balls, and the dead among the living. I read about blisters and visions. I read about the moon.
One of my favorites from this chapbook is "The Moon After a Poetry Jam." I love it for its musical language and magical image. Here are just a few lines to let you know what I mean:
"Over the main road the moon hangs low, pregnant with rise,
and I unmoor to meet her in inky air. Down the winding
hill she hides behind tree clumps of humid-heavy leaves,
her glow a halo luminous above the crowns."
Another poem awash in magic imagery is entitled "Transformations, the Suspension Bridge." In it, the poet recalls driving from Kentucky to Ohio over the Suspension Bridge on the day her grandma died:
"Parallel strings of light
to strands of DNA, pulsing.
floated from their posts,
drew together like magnets.
When the current entered,
I no longer heard
tires from the bridge,
felt the wheel vibrate,
smelled winter or river.
The moment peeled
forward, into place,
and lamps returned
to their posts
and subdued states."
In several poems, the speaker engages with something beyond everyday experience--a current that both transcends and transforms time.
The poet recognizes her sensory connection to the extraordinary early in her life and describes her experience in the poem from which she draws her chapbook's title. The poem is "The Dead Live at Hemlock Lodge, Natural Bridge, Kentucky."
"The first time I felt the dead among the living. I was ten, on a
family vacation. The dining room air dusk-heavy, as though we
trudged through waist-high water. The dark wood of tables, chairs,
wall and ceiling beams dimmed the midday light from the bank of
windows. I neither saw nor heard the passed, only felt their current,
a pool. No fear or torment, more like the salve of walking in woods
among tunneling insects and roots. I knew not to tell, as I knew
not to question the nuns in school. To keep beliefs and doubts
hidden. I studied my parents' and sisters' faces, and buried the secret
in my soul. Not the place they said sin tarnished, but where the seed
of me burrowed, thinned, and branched."
The Seed of Me honors both George's mother and her grandmother through stunning universal imagery that connects even the most personal family story to the cosmic current.
This review aired in April 2015 on AROUND CINCINNATI, WVXU.org. There were a few extra sentences about a then upcoming event for the poet that has already passed. If you'd like to listen while reading, here is a link.