Sunday, August 4, 2013


I've got the usual piles of books I'm reading, most by people I know and almost all sent to me by friends or publishers etc. As always I read a little in several when I get the chance, mostly at night in bed. Some take longer than others, either because they are simply bigger books or because the writing demands so much from my old brain I can only take in so much at a time, or just because I want to savor the experience and stretch it out.

There are also some that are slim enough and succinct and direct enough, that even while savoring them they are soon finished. Phoebe MacAdams' TOUCHING STONE is one of those. Published by Cahuenga Press in L.A., a collective publishing venture by a group of poets including MacAdams, the press that published a book high on my alltime favorites list—Harry E. Northup's REUNIONS—MacAdams's latest book is a slim volume of mostly very short poems divided into four sections.

As MacAdams explains in her introduction the poems in the book were mostly inspired or impacted by the deaths of her mother, sister and step father all within a five year period. These people so close to her and so meaningful in her life were no longer physically present but their meanings to her were still in her heart and their voices in her head and their presence invading her dreams.

But unlike other poets who might milk the maudlin aspects of losing loved ones, or who almost always bore me when they write of their dreams, something about MacAdams' prudent use of an accessible and focused language as well the trim economy of each poem, creates the sense of not only personal connection to the "story" in each poem but highlights the nuanced implications of them so that I ended up feeling a part of her experience, as if it were mine as well (and that identification is not just because I've known her since we first met in the late 1960s, having heard of her as the great beauty of the poetry world, a beauty her poems still reflect).

There are too many gems to share among the less than fifty poems in this selection, but I'll leave you with one untitled poem from the last section (or perhaps it's meant to be read as part of a serial poem like the third section) that might at first seem slight, but if you savor it and appreciate the craft in it (for instance the clarity and definitiveness of the singular "nail" etc.) I hope you will see what I see in this single gem among many in TOUCHING STONE, that ends up being more than it seems and telling a story greater and more complex than its simple form implies:

angels in the doorway

carry the weight:

light of candle

light of lantern


metro lights

light reflecting off fingernail

tip of pen

wedding ring

Christmas bow




Anonymous said...

Dear Michael,
Thank you for your splendid review of
Phoebe MacAdams' "Touching Stone."
Thanks also for your kind words on my book, "Reunions."
Your fellow poet,
Harry E. Northup

Lally said...

You're welcome Harry.

Phoebe said...

Dear Michael,
Thank you so much for your terrific review of my book. I am so glad that the poems resonated with you. It means a lot to me. We have certainly come a long way since the 1960's.
With love, Phoebe MacAdams Ozuna

Lally said...

Ain't that the truth, in some cases for me: TOO long. But in others maybe still not long enough! Anyway, happy you liked it and love back to you. I look forward to more.