Williamstown native's poetry will haunt you

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"Waiting To Be Born" by Williamstown native Janet MacFadyen is a book of new poems that are thoroughly connective in metaphor and an authentic portrayal of several wild natural landscapes. Divided into five sections, the beginning sequence, "In the Dune Shack," takes us out to the remote artist and writer dune shacks in Provincetown, where she fulfilled a residency at one point, "in the middle of the 2011 Halloween nor'easter, which dropped 17 inches of snow (Berkshires), but in Provincetown was a wind and rainstorm just short of a hurricane." It was during the Provincetown dune shack experience that MacFadyen read Robert Bly's ghazals and decided to write in the form, by Bly's invention, of 12-syllable triplets instead of 18-syllable couplets, which actually add up to the same number of syllables. Some poems stay with the form and as the poet said, " obviously some poems are simply their own thing."

The other sections, "Ash and Water," "Burn on the Wind," "Dazzle" and "Just the Grass," are "pulled from many years of travel to national parks and other wild lands." These poems are a serious spiritual homage to the earth, accidental encounters with people in the wilderness, finding self and family, and the tender reflections on what it is to be alive and mindful where we are right now.

Take these lines from a somewhat surrealistic portrait of fields and highway in the poem, "Middle of Nothing":

Fog lays its head against the pavement there is the skin stretched over vibrating bones. / There is a cloud of bees as if caught / in a plastic baggie — and the bright / lifeline stitched like a thread to the road, / every car whizzing by / crying where, where, where?

This precision of visceral, cerebral imaging of experience is a dance into the real metaphor of looking and feeling. There is a delight like that in all of these poems that take us from the sea to the jungle and to the stars.

In the poem "Sunspots," her neat and seemingly spontaneous description of her experience reading the Swedish poet Tomas Transtromer is absolutely delightful in its truth and in fulfilling the poet's mission of bringing the right words to the reader:

I was reading Tomas Transtromer. It was the attitude / that mattered, soft watery footprints / that padded across the floor and left the lights on.

This is the kind of poetry American poet Elizabeth Bishop describes as following you around all day after you read it, and that's the sign of good poetry.

Janet MacFadyen has previously published "A Newfoundland Journal" (Killick Press, 2009) and two chapbooks: "In the Provincelands" (Slate Roof Press, 2012) and "In Defense of Stones" (Heatherstone Press, 1995).

Colin Harrington is the events manager at The Bookstore & Get Lit Wine Bar in Lenox. He welcomes reader comments at charrington686@gmail.com




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