FIRST LITERARY REVIEW-EAST
Wrens Fly Through This Opened Window
by Amy Holman
Somondoco Press (2010)
Reviewed by Sweta Srivastava Vikram
Amy Holman is an intelligent and quirky storyteller. And I say this not just as the reviewer of her poetry collection, Wrens Fly Through This Opened Window, but also as a participant in one of her workshops. At the time, neither of us knew that Holman's book, filled with poems about shadows of day-to-day living, would land in my hands. But I am thrilled it did. It's fascinating to see her persona, especially her wit and imagination, carry over into her poetry.
At first glance, I was stumped by the title of the book. I wanted to know more. So I decided to do research and understand the world of wrens---small, perky songbirds with loud and complex sounds. The title and the content of the book are symbolic of the wren's characteristics. Like the wrens, news headlines are everywhere. True to wrens, the poems in this collection are bold and uninhibited. They are based around stories and national news.
I found myself asking the same question repeatedly: "How did she find her points of interest?" There is beauty and gore, murder and painting, distance and closeness---many surprise endings. And Holman conveys all of the emotions using sophisticated language in a matter-of-fact manner. For example, the line in the middle of the poem "Man Script: ". . . "as if his clothes and modesty were just taped on."
It would seem Holman writes about nothing, but she actually writes about everything---uncharted waters, unknown territories, her own neighborhood, and animals. She urges the reader to pause after each poem, explore possibilities. Holman's imaginative landscape includes an array of dark, disturbing, beautiful, daring, erotic, and insightful poems.
Holman sees poetry in death and loss. In the poem Coffin Birth (referring to the expulsion of a fetus when a pregnant woman drowns), she uses evocative, but realistic language, to write strong, factual words.
. . . He is out, but
unspecific in a vast, troubled womb.
She is intrigued by society and its contradictions, notices its randomness, recognizes its wickedness, and acknowledges it with elegance---sometimes as an observer from afar, sometimes as a keen participant. She personalizes the news headlines effortlessly and sends the readers on a poetic journey.
Although simple, everyday items appear in the book, the poems themselves aren't simple; they require a few reads. And when you are least expecting it, a philosophical and/or social message appears. The book begins with "The Cups and Spoons, The Leaves." And the last eight lines of this poem are deep and palpable:
. . . I don't think we change
even if we're changeable-the glass half full
one day, half empty the next, but never the water
carrying the glass away. One day I like to ride out
into the city, the next hideout
at home. We are confined by who we are
more than what we say, even if lip readers
read language on the day of languish, and tell.
While there is a lingering hint of nostalgia and solitude in the book, Holman is amused by the world, and she uses intelligent sarcasm to state the obvious. In the middle of the poem "Or, Something," a few lines appear that best capture her essence and abilities:
. . . I often failed to capture the attention of men I liked, a cubist
figure at the impressionist party. The professor did grant me
honors after dishonoring me. That's power,
Like the wrens flying through the opened windows in Brooklyn, Holman's poetic presence and sharp insight fly seamlessly from one poem to another, drawing the reader in as the narrator peels the layers of the world through the book in its entirety.
Sweta Srivastava Vikram (www.swetavikram.com) is an award-winning writer, poet, novelist, author, essayist, educator, and blogger whose musings have translated into three chapbooks of poetry, two collaborative collections of poetry, a novel, a nonfiction book of prose and poems (upcoming in 2012), and a full-length collection of poems (upcoming in 2013). Her scribbles have also appeared in several anthologies, literary journals, and online publications across six countries in three continents. Sweta has won two Pushcart Prize nominations, an International Poetry Award, Best of the Net Nomination, Nomination for Asian American Members' Choice Awards 2011, writing fellowships, and was short listed for the Independent Literary Awards. Taj Mahal Review describes her as "A poet with hauntingly beautiful talent." Sweta has held several artist residencies in Europe and America and worked on collaborative projects with artists from Zimbabwe and Australia. A graduate of Columbia University, she reads her work, teaches creative writing workshops, and gives talks at universities and schools across the globe. Sweta lives in New York City with her husband. You can follow her on Twitter (@ssvik) or Facebook (http://www.facebook.com/Words.By.Sweta).