FIRST LITERARY REVIEW-EAST
Archeology, by Linda Simone
(Flutter Press, 2014)
Reviewer: Tina Tocco
I never imagined a chapbook could possess such depth and breadth until I discovered Linda Simone’s Archeology. Although its scope is extensive—the Little Ice Age to the yards of suburbia, St. Petersburg to Carmine Street, a fading father to a newborn son—it somehow feels cozy, like a family tale recounted by a favorite aunt.
Simone’s inherent talent is to bring us in and keep us close with the smallest details. Whether reflecting on a pair of hugging skeletons in the aptly titled “Hugging Skeletons” (“I can’t help but wonder/if they were positioned for pillow talk,/if his fingers brushed her cheek”) or sharing pieces of a Catholic girlhood in “Our Lady of Pompeii” (“prayer beads draped across white gloved hands—/the ominous black-and-whites keeping us in check”), Simone’s images surprise with their simultaneous ease and precision. Each poem is a step deeper into history, into memory, into ourselves.
In “Mistaken,” Simone holds us within the twin feelings of loss and longing. With details both unique and universal, we are directed through a tale of prolonged mourning:
Only in the dead of night my mother,
who felt the seismic quake in her chest,
returns to my unbridled delight.
Not gone at all.
By the time we exit, we are pierced with the inevitable:
And then I awake
more shattering than the dream.
“When the Boy Cannot Be Found” allows Simone to connect the instincts of motherhood:
His mother, like a periscope,
scans the perimeter, center aisles,
comes up empty ...
with its unavoidable result:
Now, a head taller,
he is techno-savvy,
unaware that he’s still her baby,
that she’s the one
who is lost.
Simone sees all the points along our time lines for what they are, whether gentle or less than gentle, expertly pulling them together so her poetry’s range remains tight, ensuring that even the most intimate images are accessible.
While some of Archeology naturally explores the harsher realities of memory, Simone hasn’t forgotten to soften those sharp edges. “Simple Storage Solutions” pulls us into a series of fun notions for keeping our memories safe and close:
A friend packs hers in mason jars—
labeled, sterilized, vacuum-sealed,
neatly stacked in her pantry —
each moment visible when desired.
We’re also hit with absurd humor in “Plum”:
like two buttocks,
middle-class tenant in your fruit bowl.
Her playful ideas are bright and original, adding a beautiful layering to this warm collection.
For poetry lovers who think they’ve read it all, as well as newcomers looking for a comfortable place to start, Linda Simone’s Archeology will settle deep. I’ll borrow a line from “Hugging Skeletons” to say it best: “This is the discovery of something special.”
Linda Simone’s work includes two chapbooks, Archeology (Flutter Press, 2014) and the award-winning Cow Tippers (Shadow Poetry, 2006). Her 15-poem sequence, “Stations of the Cross,” appeared in the anthology Alternatives to Surrender (Plain View Press, 2007), and was nominated for a Pushcart Prize. Her poems have been widely published in journals and anthologies. She recently moved to San Antonio, Texas, from New York City and is a listed poet on the San Antonio Poets Source.
Tina Tocco’s work has appeared in Roanoke Review, Crab Creek Review, River Styx, Harpur Palate, Passages North, Potomac Review, Portland Review, and other publications. Her poetry was anthologized in Wild Dreams: The Best of Italian Americana (Fordham University Press, 2008). Tina earned her MFA in creative writing from Manhattanville College, where she was editor-in-chief of Inkwell.