The Great World of Days
A calendar collects time neatly, sorted by numbers, geometry and pages to mark the periods we call days. And within those twenty-four hours that make up any day, potential manifests in myriad ways. “The Great World of Days” (Day Eight), a collection of poetry published in Bourgeon 2007-2021, edited by Gregory Luce, Anne Becker, and Jeffrey Banks perfectly illuminates these qualities and prospects by refracting any given light of the day to show just how diverse quotidian experiences tend to be.
By bringing together disparate voices from the DMV area, (DC/Maryland/Virginia), this book displays one commonality throughout: geographical confinement not just by location, but of an abstract identity: American. That word itself defines and divides, reflects and bends. Facts, though solid, still tend to have many facets thanks to perception…this can be a general lesson gleaned from Mabel Ferragut Smith’s thought-provoking piece, “Factually,” the opening stating, “facts are stones; quiet, unchangeable context.” Katherine E. Young offers familiar directions to one version of this country in her poem, “Driving to Juniata.” And in Lucinda Marshall’s “Patriotism Reconsidered,” a new oath of citizenship is undertaken because, agreeably, “to do anything else is treason.”
Other exemplary voices give life to every aspect of the authors’ varied lives and experiences. Perspective plays an important role in this wondrous collection of poetry. The everyday and mundane exists, and rightly so, alongside moments of profound transformation. In these poets’ more than capable hands, all these moments transcend the commonplace towards sacrosanctity. In “Broken” by Nick Leininger, the simple act of dropping and breaking a pair of eyeglasses becomes an object lesson on how to better view a potentially terrible everyday experience. Alina Stefanescu’s offering, “I Want to Write About the N-Word,” brings the topic of an anatomical feature to the forefront of a necessary discussion so many find unsavory. Jane Shapiro writes in her poem “Tent,” a beautiful ode to remembering, right before stirring in the morning, “I yearn for that waking, that once tethered dawn…”
Portions of days get spent with either the past, present or future as the momentary focus, shifting and contorting to serve a given need. Memory often threads the three, as all aspects lead back and forth between temporal options. Matthew Rentz’s “A Kept Man” brings the lesson that memories keep people alive. The components of recollection are heartbreakingly demonstrated with “Annie” by Bernadine “Dine” Watson, an arresting poem about the two sides of remembrance. Astonishing pieces about suspended time, (“Kitchen Fire,” by Kate Horowitz), the impermanence and importance of memory, (“The Beginning of Prayer” by Sarah Katz), odes to things lost/gone, (“Epilogue,” by Neelam Patel), and other hazards of slipped time and our attempts to hold or reclaim the feelings, the importance, are sincerely explored with equal excellence. And what happens when the past proves too difficult to be released? “One Night Ghost” by Beth Konkoski shows a variation. The present becomes memories for later and work like “Suitcase” by Anne Dykkers that deals with the daily progress and process of moving on from a bad relationship, gracefully exemplifies the point. In another regard, Yvette Neisser’s “What You Left Behind,” an inventory of what remains when a partner dies, and “Build A Brother” by Elizabeth Ashe as a reflection of loss and the impending grief over what’s gone further plead the case. Naomi Thiers displays the significance of keeping strength in the face of adversity with an enduring will to survive in her poem “Refugee.”
America the beautiful, the land of spilled, spoiled milk and honey has hardened into an amber that preserves a sinister past. Part of daily life for many involves learning new ways to survive and thrive. Kevin Wiggins’s riveting explanation of being “Criminally Black” shocks and enlightens with equal success. “Items in a Neighborhood” by Elnathan Starnes accounts a harrowing, accurate reading of the colors that supposedly never run but casually from the freedom they promise with discernment. “Dark Energy” by Susan Bucci Mockler proves that in this country the daily right to die often extends its arms to all with an equal willingness to embrace. The drudgeries of exploitation on female existence and underappreciation find brilliant voice with Annisha Montgomery’s “On Becoming the Church Bag Lady” and Susan Meehan’s “Goddess Incognito.” Both pieces resonate as earnest indictments against male manipulation and expectation.
Every poem in the Bourgeon Anthology is worth more than just a mere mention and space permitting, each would get the full discussion they deserve. The collection merits praise for its accomplished ability to run the gamut of emotions. One page might provide a good chuckle (“If John Waters Hung Out in Reston” by Sally Toner) while the next gut punches with the unhindered honesty of a loving reminiscence, (“Pergola” by Serena M. Agusto-Cox). In fact, the word honesty applies to the words interwoven to become these superb poems. It is as if each one understood the universal urge laid out emphatically in Rose Strode’s illuminating “All You Remember,” when she writes, “You only get one chance: say the right things right.”