By: Carol Prejean Zippert
Reviewed by: Bruce Elliot Alford
NewSouth Books, 2009
Carol Prejean Zippert returns to her southern roots in this second volume of poetry, Meeting Myself ’Round the Corner. These poems are about love, community, and family. She writes about her father, for example, who she describes as quiet, witty, and clever, who could solve word problems in his head. She writes about her aging mother, forgetting her medication and “emptying every dresser drawer,” and she writes of her grandchildren, as in “Ahli’s Birthday Rhyme.” Here is the first stanza:
Pretty Ahli Isabella
had a birthday party at two.
She invited her cousins and
her house was filled like the
old woman in the shoe.
Zippert isn’t hung up on grammatical correctness or line breaks or other such concerns. She is concerned, rather, with communicating an idea. To that end, most of the poems are simple, direct philosophical statements. Here is one of her more epigrammatic poems:
“Crown and Jewel”
The goodness of your life
But it is the joy
of those you love
This poem does not describe an action or an object but deals with an idea, an interior landscape. The reader gets the general idea without being given specifics.
Simplicity isn’t a bad thing, especially if the poet really wants the reader to “get the message.” Sometimes a particular audience expects more clarity and less complexity. One wouldn’t, for example, teach poems from a peer-reviewed poetry journal to a group of preschool children.
However, avid readers of contemporary poetry (poetry that uses indirect reference and compression of expression) would probably find the pacing of this collection to be slow: There is little variation in structure or poetic device. Most of the poems rely on a refrain.
One poem that successfully marries content and structure through the use of refrain is “Walking the Rows”:
They walked the rows
bending in rhythm….
They walked the rows
kicking dust between bare toes….
The refrain “They walked the rows” captures the repetitiveness of walking a crop row.
Meeting Myself ’Round the Corner is a fit collection for anyone who has not read much poetry or for readers who are unconcerned with the various historical lines of modern poetry. Zippert’s publisher, NewSouth Books, based in Montgomery, was savvy enough to realize that a wide and virtually untapped (non-academic) cultural market exists and that today’s poetry landscape has enough room for many different kinds of readers and poets.
Bruce Elliot Alford is assistant professor of creative writing at the University of South Alabama in Mobile.