This review originally appeared in the Spring 2017 issue of Dialogue magazine. Posted with permission by www.blindskills.org
A Review by B. T. Kimbrough
NOTE: Ann Chiappetta’s byline appeared within the pages of DIALOGUE from 2008 through 2012. We wish her well on the occasion of her first poetry publication and look forward to hearing of many future successes.
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Ann Chiappetta’s recently published poetry collection bears a one-word title–UPWELLING–an uncommon word that can set your dictionary to talking in circles. Check the entry for “upwelling” at the popular web source dictionary.com, and you’ll find this rather laconic definition: “Upwelling: Noun; an act or instance of welling up–an upwelling of emotion in his voice.” And while this not very imaginative wording makes for a prosaic definition, it serves as a clear and compelling marquee for a poetry collection.
UPWELLING is a collection of about two dozen short poems in which common life experiences become vivid for the reader, not from the drama of events, but through the emotions of the narrator. Told in the first person, the individual poems make use of life experiences, described in the fewest possible words to draw the reader into imagining the vivid feelings that must flourish in their wake. In poem 18, DIVING, we can actually feel her mixture of longing and fear as she turns into a sort of journalist enviously watching the divers on the cliffs of Acapulco–
I’m so separate, so frightened
I’ll never jump.
In poem 21, APPEARANCES, we are never told in so many words that the narrator has suffered the loss of her vision; we are shown through words of sensory experience how she now takes in the world–
Now a sound or smell overrides the lost optical cues …
The soft, clear tinkle of ice on a windowpane
And my husband’s breathing deep in the night
Comforts the troubles
Lulls me back to sleep.
The thematic material of this book is highly serious–there are direct and indirect references to grieving, loss of sight and difficult parental decisions–all made vivid and close through the poet’s rich vocabulary of feeling. These are deeply-felt, highly personal journeys that might prove difficult reading as mere autobiography, and yet they hook the reader with empathetic memories of shared experience when told through skillfully focused words that have vivid sensory associations.
The tenth poem, HOW TO DEAL WITH REJECTION, will rouse empathetic feelings in any reader who has ever opened a letter in hope, only to find it full of disappointment:
Rereading the letter
tears at my fiber
cramps the gut
The shock, disbelief, anger, and deal-making
obliterate the hope of acceptance …
Yet, only a few lines later, the poet also catches that unsinkable note of resolve as rejection is met with reflection. “Pain,” observes the stoic poet, “is proof of progress.”
And speaking of philosophy, the poet sometimes uses her keen agility in metaphor, by which objects can stand for ideas, to express philosophical thoughts. A compelling case in point is this passage from the third poem, THE MARRIAGE POT:
if anything we owned
could represent our marriage, it is this pot.
It has weathered the fires beneath it,
protecting its contents from the heat.
It isn’t pretty to look at,
and pales when set beside a newer, unused one.
But, despite its dulled finish and dents,
it’s a trustworthy part of our kitchen.
Just like our hearts when it comes to our marriage.
I can depend on it
to boil the macaroni just right in record time.
What we put in the pot is
as important as what comes out of it.
hot-simmering passion, spiced tongues,
all tempered in a trustworthy apparatus
complete with scorch marks
and dents of good use,
reminding us how far we’ve come.
UPWELLING is a highly readable collection of short poems which one can expect to absorb and enjoy without need for a dictionary at hand. There are no complex poetic forms or obscure mythological references, and thus the collection is readily accessible to the casual reader. Nevertheless, UPWELLING is by no means a book of light verse or easy entertainment. It is a carefully crafted view of life as seen through the senses of a serious and thoughtful observer who knows how to project sensual experience onto a page so that it becomes hauntingly real.
Currently, UPWELLING by Ann Chiappetta is available only in electronic and print formats. The author is busily working to secure publication in audio and braille. Electronic copies from Barnes and Noble and Amazon cost $2.99. Through print on demand services by Amazon and Barnes and Noble, print hard copies cost $7.95. The author’s web page is at the following internet address: dldbooks.com/annchiappetta.