Monday, May 1, 2017
THE OWL STILL ASKING: TANKA FOR TROUBLED TIMES by KATH ABELA WILSON
M. EARL SMITH Reviews
The Owl Still Asking: Tanka for Troubled Times by Kath Abela Wilson
(Moria Books’ Locofo Chap, Chicago, 2017)
Kath Abela Wilson returns to explore the duality of loss. On one hand, she is coping, through Tanka, with the 2015 passing of her mother, who, she feels, would find herself in despair over what our world has become. For example, she writes on January 20th (the day that Donald Trump took office) that “for a peaceful world / she worked fourscore fifteen / my mother / would cry today I close my eyes / and bear witness”. On January 21st, defiance, no double born of the same maternal beginning, proclaims that “she would have smiled / out of the blue a sea of pink / my mother / open your eyes again / with hope and say ‘wonderful’”. Despite the twin paths of sorrow, she manages to find an anchor in the memory of her mother, who, as we’ve seen before, offers a heavy influence into her writing.
The second loss explored is the loss of hope, one magnified by the ascension of Donald J Trump to the nation’s highest office. Here, however, the poet remains ever-defiant, clinging to hope for the power of her words: “rain seven days and nights / lightning precedes thunder / can a poem / caught in the bucket of my mind / wash the world clean”. Even here, however, she harkens back to the power that the lessons of her mother gave her, remarking on the eight day that “I made a ring / a small infinity…/ her 95th year / she gave it back she’d be proud / eight poems of resistance.” Thus, without the mother, we’d lack the poet, and without the poet, we’d lack one element of resistance. Just as the infinity in the ring completes a loop, so does this trinity of mother, daughter, and revolutionary.
The thread of repair and change runs constant. On the sixteenth day, the poet writes “sixteenmo / so we fold ourselves / into books / in the history of time / we fill the cracks with gold.” If Trump, then, intends to leave us into another Gilded Age, it will be the poets, the warriors, and the revolutionaries who tear his gold palatial estates down and use the resources therein to repair the cracks in our society that he forced open, with brute strength and a tongue tinged with silver racism. By the time January ends, we see that the poet’s will to fight persists, when she writes “January / has been the longest month / cruel and bold / free your grip let kindness spring / to welcome on this American soil”. To immigrants, women, POC, sexual minorities, and even the proletariat, this serves as a beacon of light, a rallying cry:
You are not alone.
From works for children to the macabre, from academic research to sports journalism, and from opinion essays to the erotic, M. Earl Smith is a writer that seeks to stretch the boundaries of genre and style. A native of Southeast Tennessee, M. Earl moved to Ohio at nineteen and, with success, reinvented himself as a writer after parting ways with his wife of eleven years. After graduating from Chatfield College (with highest honors) in 2015, M. Earl became the first student from Chatfield to matriculate at an Ivy League institution when he enrolled at the University of Pennsylvania, in Philadelphia. The proud father of two wonderful children (Nicholas and Leah), M. Earl studies creative writing and history at UPenn. When he’s not studying, M. Earl splits time between Philadelphia, Cincinnati, and Chattanooga, with road trips to New York City, Wichita, Kansas, and Northampton, Massachusetts in between.
Posted by EILEEN at 11:44 AM