Where it Goes
Reviewed by: Ed Bennett
One of the beauties of poetry is its many shapes and forms. From Terza Rima to Free Verse, Iambic Pentameter to Limericks, there is a place for every taste and talent. While it is necessary to be familiar with all of these forms, many poets choose one and work with it until they evolve toward another form or develop one that is uniquely theirs.
Martina Reisz Newberry’s latest book, Where it Goes, departs from this custom. Within this collection of 85 poems a reader will find Sonnets, Tankas, Prose Poems, Imagist poetry as well as Free Verse in Ms. Newberry’s unique and direct voice. One of her most interesting techniques is how she varies the focus of her poems; some are laser sharp and move directly toward the topic while others begin in a familiar place then flow gracefully to a very different destination. She shows the true mark of a masterful poet in that both of these poem types arrive at a well-crafted conclusion.
In “The Mursi of Ethiopia”, a child listens to adults sitting around a radio. The conversation moves from Orson Welles’ “War of the Worlds” to basketball. In the midst of this conversation with two men trying to impress each other with their knowledge, a child squints through her glasses at a National Geographic article about an Ethiopian tribe. What could have become a jumble of metaphors is instead a tableau of middle class family life. The arguing adults become background noise while the child is immersed in an exotic adventure where both the Morsi and Middle Class merge.
Ms. Newberry’s poetry seems to have its roots in the spiritualism of Blake rather than the “love of nature” of the Romantics. She writes with a stark honesty about loneliness and loss, combining it with a mature, compassionate voice. “About a Man” is a poem reminiscent of EA Robinson’s “Richard Cory”. Like Robinson’s character, her unnamed man is well to do and has no surviving family members.
“He is a perfect
loneliness: dark, dreary, full of blues songs
a weed growing out of the sand.”
There is no suicide, as with Robinson but the character in Ms. Newberry’s poem lives in his own perpetual stillness as the poem ends.
“…This man’s heart is
separate, submissive and unresisting
Richard Cory met a tragic end in his suicide. This character, without the benefit of a name, does not find rest. Instead, the reader is given an almost microscopic look into his soul. The tragedy here is not death, but the continuation of his sterile life.
Interestingly, her “philosophy of poetics” is found in “Mustard”:
“When Bukowski was alive,
Reading Where it Goes is like meeting a new an interesting friend. As each page turns, you are held by the prescience and honesty of the dialog. By the last page, you know that this will be a close and enduring friendship. Martina Reisz Newberry’s poems are a tour de force in style and technique as well as a sterling examination of human emotion and vulnerability.