Book Review


Poland at the Door, front cover

Poland at the Door

Poetry by Evelyn Posamentier
Poetry, $8
The Knives Forks Spoons Press

Reviewed by Trena Machado

In Poland at the Door, Posamentier shows how collective memory leaches into language, rooms, streets, even one’s own thoughts. We live in collective memory, add to it, pass into it ourselves. All around us is the memorabilia, the encasement of buildings, furniture, “the chairs are inhabited/by those who came before”; the acts of others, “hall monitors without uniforms,/I know them./well, I can identify them/if I must give up testimony”; language, “…an uneasy Poland/chats outside, please/Poland, stay away from my door.” Poland at the crossroads of the mid-continent and of history, conquered over and over by voracious neighboring nation-states picks up the pieces, reassembles itself becomes a metaphoric Poland.

A real Poland , Posamentier attending a month-long writing residency, becomes a metaphor for a vacillating, transient world that has its absurd side and yet a world that holds our awe and is the foundation of our question, “who is this god?” The question is the answer, the paradox of knowing and not knowing. With the repetition of “the days between/the days of awe,” we sense the exuberance of surviving and relishing the paradox we live.

Finding techniques to create new subjective expression is the power of Posamentier’s language. The music of the language itself makes the book readable (and re-readable). Read the book out loud to hear the liturgical, rhythmic depth and the drama. The sonorousness of the refrain, Poland at the Door, and the lattice-work of fragments under the refrain that seem to be concrete descriptions, but to disintegrate and lift into non sequitur glimpses that awake us to keen awareness.

Poland at the Door illustrates that a metaphor can hold the world and all its dreams, hallucinations, history, daily life. Life is ever-changing, topsy-turvy, up, down, up, down, glorious and difficult. Posamentier’s language replicates this by seeming to be straightforward, but all is mixed up…life has no routine and all that is stable malfunctions: animate/inanimate have merging boundaries, things don’t behave like themselves but act like other things, “my ballpoint screeches to a halt.” Life is off-track, doing its own thing—or…isn’t this “life” always? Can’t trust appearances, phones have self-agency and “stars astray.” Driven by the refrain of Poland at the Door, the metaphor, a constancy, the world is in mixed layers, the stable/unstable, the known/unknown…and interspersed, holy, holy, holy and the days of awe.

Is this what Poland at the Door is about? Maybe—but, is Posamentier’s mystery cache: the scope of the world-holding fragments of our collective memory/questions and language that lets the reader live the breath of awareness itself.

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