Gabriela Marie Milton, Woman: Splendor and Sorrow: Love Poems and Poetic Prose
Reviewed by Gary Gautier
The title and subheadings of this poetry collection — “Woman: Splendor and Sorrow” (Love Poems/Poetic Prose) might mislead you into thinking that the focus is narrower in content than it is. If the focus is love, it is love in the broadest sense, a love that encompasses narrative and lyrical and archetypal forms, a fantastic array of imagery, a panorama of human and divine experience.
Imagery always comes first in poetry for me, which bodes well for Milton. Imagery, rather than something rational or polemical, drives the structure and flow (although the polemical does rear its head in the “poetic prose” near the end).
peaches will grow on one side of the moon
injured lambs will scream on the other
taste of strawberries
my hair freshly cut
your hands nailed in white marble
free your hands from the marble*
(The Easter of Roses)
Two points worth noting: one is the reliance upon concatenated imagery to drive the flow; the other is the little conceptual hook at the end, where the field of imagery blossoms into some nugget drenched with philosophical or emotional value.
The imagery can be beautiful (“the marble net of rustling stars”), startling (“bones cracking with love,” “with pins in his heart the pigeon still flies”), or archetypal (“moon” and “stars” and “purple seas”; from “cotton candy sunsets” to “the arms of Morpheus”), but it makes every poem concrete.
To be sure, there are other laws of motion in Milton’s poetic universe – the narrative (“I fast for nine mornings. On the tenth, I walk barefoot toward the water … I love for nine nights. On the tenth, I look for …), the anecdotal and darkly humorous (“I keep a coffin adorned with lilies in my bedroom. I sleep besides death like Sarah Bernhardt”). But the dominant movement is the free association of images, images with personal and emotional power, but most importantly (for me) with archetypal power – whether the archetypal landscape associated with a religious mythos (““resurrection” and “prophets,” “sacrifice” and “creation”) or a landscape perhaps deeper in the collective unconscious, powerful images that predate religion as we know it. Milton is fairly straightforward about the ties to the collective unconscious in the “poetic prose” section.
“My poetry is that which comes from the realm of the unfulfilled. It is the echo of the waves that you can guess but cannot see.”
Thus, toward the end of the collection, she gathers her “wounds . . . in a large wicker basket” and recounts an apparent choice she made regarding which archetypal orientation would be her final resting place.
“I did not want to go to heaven. I wanted to go to the sea.”
She does not equivocate. She makes a choice. All agency goes back to the poet. In a collection based on imagery and suggestiveness, this moment of decisiveness is a nice hook, I think, for how the collection speaks to the splendor and sorrow of women, and in a larger sense, to all of us.
Click cover for link.
P.S. Last day to get Goodbye, Maggie for 99c: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1724881876/
* * * Click covers for links * * *