Comment on this article

Divining the Prime Meridian
by Carol Smallwood
77 poems/118 pages/$19.00
WordTech Communications (January 2015)

Reviewed by Mary Langer Thompson

Carol Smallwood’s Divining the Prime Meridian (Word Poetry, 2015) is a collection about both the physical and mental realms, and includes poems on domestic life, nature, health, geography, and places. Most of the time the poet stays with the quotidian as she muses on the spaces in lace, McDonalds, a “Good Housekeeping Cat,” and “Clabber Girl Biscuits,” in which Smallwood asks questions that will make you wonder:

“Where’s the girl going on the label; is it to roam,
be free of the woman, or is it on some dare?”

In another, learn what a “self respecting water puddle shows.”

You’ll also find her at the opera in the heart-wrenching “Aida Sestina” which is about the break up of a marriage: Feel the ache as the poet writes of the man who accompanied her to the performance:

“When Mitchell walked me to my car his coat blew against
me, a benediction I knew was lasting. At least I had
this to always remember before I had to go back home.”

Some of the poems are poems of wonder (“The Human Body”). You’ll picture the poet going through a car wash with children (“Car Wash”) and ponder the order of things in “Seeing the Moon During Day.” Her mind and pen easily move from the general to the specific, from a radio announcement to a veteran uncle.

Smallwood can be witty and playful, as well. You’ll laugh out loud at what patients in “A Found Poem” write in a doctor’s office on a dry-erase board:

“So much for the Atkins Diet!”

In the more darkly humorous “Probate,” Smallwood gently leads us into more serious thoughts:

“To my son, Jim, I give, devise and bequeath, the sum of One Dollar.”

As her book title suggests, the author comments on both hemispheres, and her poems are full of “divining” or bringing us insights and revelations. She is skilled in both free and formal verse, using the villanelle, sestina and pantoum forms. Her repetitions of lines are musical and powerful, as in “Holiday Fog,” with “Both families facing one another at a restaurant table.”

The poems can be just a touch shocking yet compassionate as in “Now I Drive”:

“over road kill to make
sure it isn’t suffering.”

This author is a multiple Pushcart nominee, and this is her third collection of poetry. Divining the Prime Meridian contains seventy-seven free verse and formal poems. They will appeal to readers and live audiences, and will be returned to again and again for both enjoyment and wisdom.


Return to:

[New] [Archives] [Join] [Contact Us] [Poetry in Motion] [Store] [Staff] [Guidelines]