November-December 2014 … The Global Online Magazine of Arts, Information & Entertainment … Volume 10, Number 6
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Feeling Chapbooked

Three Good Ones

Reviews by Robert Joe Stout


Elegiacs in a Closed Room, Carol Frith. Gribble Press, 2012

Varian, Ellen LaFlèche, Dallas Poets Community Press, 2010

If They Have Ears To Listen, Terry Lucas,Southeast Missouri State University Press, 2012


Small volumes and chapbooks of excellent poetry appear and disappear, read by friends, colleagues, other poets but seldom getting the readership or the acknowledgment that they deserve. Three such small but impressive offerings are Varian, by Ellen LaFlèche, Elegiacs in a Closed Room by Carol Frith and If They Have Ears To Listen by Terry Lucas.

LaFlèche’s curt testimonies of a woman dying of cancer are stabs in the gut. The poems are short, evocative: The reader is in the room with Julia, with her friends, her lover, her son, gasping at the intrusions, the lucid ironies, the moments of despair. In “Knit One, Purl One”

the black stitches unravel in her lap

like cat-gut sutures, each loop

tugging at the next

like the loosely knitted

scar on her belly.

and in “I Organize my Own Memorial Service so I Can Be There to Enjoy It”

The banquet room is a pretty

preview of hell—hot red walls

and ceiling. Red

candles in mirror cups,

the charred wicks writhing like sinners.

LaFlèche handles an intricate and delicate balancing of life and death with near surgical precision, evoking emotion without catering to it. An excellent read.

Frith’s Elegiacs observe more than participate: observe in ways that bring the reader into the colors, tastes, movements. In “Imaginary Nude in Enamel Bath”

She has waited,

watching as the artist draws her bath,

lowers her to water,


her fractured, glowing skin a kind

of common sense against the sad

uncluttered motion of the dark.

Images flow through the poems: “sky is like a scarf make out of silk,”

memory “is like salt on watercolor/like warm apples on the tongue,” “The red part/of each apricot blossom glows like a small/tired sun.”

Fruit filled, flowers filled, thought filled poems. A fine reading experience.

In “If They Have Ears To Hear” Terry Lucas, narrator, story teller, active participant in everyday life, links the reader to events at first glance ordinary—unpoetic—that details, descriptions, movements make meaningful, enjoyable and insightful. Coins clatter into a cash register as “contralto quarters, soprano dimes,” dates end with engines “cooling down with the ticking sounds/of shrinking metal, re-buckling of belts, re-hooking of bras,” prayer meetings prompt “women to rest foreheads in palms, men to crouch on the scuffed linoleum floor/Grip the back of a gray metal folding chair as fiercely as a child steadying a wooden ladder…”

Commonplace, but commonplace touched with magic, viewed with awe. Wrens, Corningware, goldfinches, Luke’s Café, Abboud suits web the reader in experiencing life the way it is: curious, quirky, laughable and—quite often—profound.


About the reviewer: 

Robert Joe Stout is journalist and freelance writer living in Oaxaca, Mexico. His forthcoming book Hidden Dangers details obstacles facing Mexico and the United States on various fronts, including drug commerce and immigration. His most recent book of poetry is A Perfect Throw(Aldrich Press).