Volume 10 (Fall 2015)
Some books begin at the cover. Here, it is a Jan Van Huysum still life— swirling petals, a lip of pale pink, the deep fold of leaf, and on closer inspection, a butterfly embedded in the greenery, a flower drooping into the black background, and, even closer, one sees an ant up in the corner. And is that a wing? In sharp relief, details rise against the blackness, highlighted and taking on their own stories. So with the cover, the poems. Sandra Marchetti's first collection, Confluence, is a deeply lyric book notable for its commitment to the gaze, the language of observation and its willingness to embrace lush language and the thrill of sensuality. These are poems unafraid of beauty with speakers who are “shaving off the morning/in swells and scrolls.” However, as in the cover image's ant busy in the corner, the poems here are edged with the stuff of the world where “dogs bark and shake their stuff” and sometimes there is a “bad egg moon” in the skies.
A “confluence” is a joining of rivers; it is also a bringing together with speed and current and tumble that which flows from different sources. In these poems, the tension derives from their swift movement and the unexpected arrivals “a meteor slung/ over the river thrums/ the sky's drumbeat.” This is a lovely image, but the confluence is in the title of the poem “Pilgrims.” Who are these seekers beneath the grandness of the sky and how will they move through a world where “rivulets/grind a heron's feet/ into sand”? The poems of the collection ask how to be together, as lovers, as thinkers, as humans on the planet, and how will we find one another: “So not to miss the moment of you/ I stay my gaze.” It is in stillness that these poems find their power. In the gaze and the language of that gaze, they become eloquent, turning the ordinary into something shining while still acknowledging that “storms turn on their stomachs and gain on us.”
Read this smart and lovely book slowly with a glass of something good in hand and the time to linger on what it has to offer. As with any good work of art—still life or poem—the attention is well paid off in discovery and pleasure.
Confluence by Sandra Marchetti (Sundress Publications, 2015)