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Jan/Feb 2016 Reviews & Interviews

Each Thing Touches

Each Thing Touches
Marc Finstrom.
Glass Lyre Press. 2015. 103 pp.
ISBN 978 1 941783 07 8.

Review by Jennifer Finstrom


Buy now from Amazon! I became aware of Marc Frazier's poetry in 2011 when his work appeared in Eclectica for the first time, and more recently, I was fortunate to hear him read in a number of Chicago venues. As a result, I was eager to delve into Each Thing Touches, Frazier's full length collection available from Glass Lyre Press. A few of these poems also appear in Eclectica, and reading poems that I knew well in the context of a collection gave them new and exciting life.

The collection begins with an epigraph from Louise Glück, one of my very favorite poets, and the title poem also has a Glück epigraph. I think that looking closely at these is an important foundation for venturing further into the work as a whole. The initial epigraph is from Glück's "First Memory": "...in childhood, I thought / that pain meant / I was not loved. / It meant I loved." The second epigraph focuses on love as well, but raises a different question: "Why love what you will lose? There is nothing else to love." I think that both of these give us the sense that love—and love's pain—is quite often inevitable. Frazier's collection references ships and boats and water frequently, and I see Glück's epigraphs providing an anchor of sorts, something that is always there when we look back to find it.

"Each Thing Touches," the title poem, provides an even greater a sense of this. I get glimmers of my own childhood at the start of the poem: "When the Dutch Elms are felled," it begins, "extra light throws us off." Those missing trees come back at the poem's end where the speaker, no longer in childhood, states that "At the border I declare only these torn pages," and, "Maintaining innocence, / my words lean like leaves toward light." So even though the trees are gone, leaving light in their place, they also leave something of themselves. I retained a sense of this invisible something throughout the book: the past might be gone, but it exists as story, as continuous narration that though changed, is still present.

And while there are many places where tensions work at finding balance in this book—tension between past and present, rural and urban, and what seemed most clear, between stillness and motion—what provided the essential balance for these seemed to me to be the idea of story and how pieces might be assembled in memory to form a coherent whole, just as "a collage longs for the whole picture," as the first poem, "After," tells us.

Resulting from these ideas, a main takeaway from the collection for me was that the stories we tell and the words we choose to get them across can bring us together or separate us. In "Getting Over It," a prose poem, the speaker states, "I wanted a secret language like some twins have when they are growing up. I wanted to be in such a closed world with you." This closed world is implied only to be possible if there is a shared—and also secret—language. But how possible can this be? Nonetheless, how can we not want to search for such a world? And in "Little Gods," one of the poems that appears in Eclectica, the idea of story comes in more literally through familiar tales such as The Pied Piper, Hansel and Gretel, and Little Red Riding Hood: "Mostly these tales were metaphor: losing your way, finding your way." But whether we are lost or found, the search for balance and an ordered past is inevitable. Near the end of "Little Gods," this discussion of fairy tales brings us to "The truth: I remember little, / the bulk of memory scattered like starlings / in all directions: black shards in a clear sky." Nonetheless, we shouldn't fear that we will lose the starlings of memory forever: in the first stanza of "Little Gods," we see that "Meaning waited in the future," and to me, this is the kernel of hope inherent both in this poem and in the entire collection.

 

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