My wonderful husband guest posts today a review of a new book of poetry.
Patricia Neely Dorsey’s Reflections of a Mississippi Magnolia-A Life in Poems is “a true celebration of the south and things southern.” The author states , “There are so many negative connotations associated with Mississippi and the south in general. In my book, using childhood memories, personal thoughts and dreams, I attempt to give a positive glimpse into the southern way of life. In my book I try to show that there is much is more to Mississippi and the south than all of the negatives usually portrayed .I invite readers to Meet Mississippi (and the south) Through Poetry, Prose and The Written Word.”
It may sound odd that, as a student of literature and a writer, I have no idea what I really want from a poem. I know what I like and I know what I don’t like. I know why I like what I do and why I don’t like what I don’t. Sometimes, though, everything that would normally work toward making me like a poem just gets broken down. Perhaps it is an intriguing subject that gets overshadowed and lost in a forest of predictable meter and rhyme. Perhaps it is an interesting meter devoted to a subject that doesn’t quite measure up. Having said all of this, I can now say that I have a very mixed opinion of Patricia Neely-Dorsey’s Reflections of a Mississippi Magnolia.
I do not believe that there is a poem in this collection that Mrs. Neely-Dorsey did not honestly feel, that does not spring from who she is as an individual who wants to share her own understanding of life with the world at large. However, very many of the poems that book-end this collection fall into the category of “poems whose subjects are not well-met by their structure.” Mrs. Neely-Dorsey has an affinity for her Southern life – an affinity with which I can sympathize – that is clearly expressed, sentimental as it may be. But sentimentality can go two different ways: sappy romanticism and cut-me-to-the-quick art-that-can-be-nothing-less. Sadly, this volume is opened and closed by pieces that fall into the “sappy” category. The meter, matched with the subject matter, in a strange sort of way, reminds me very much of Phyllis Wheatley. This can be taken in many different ways, so let me declare my stance on Wheatley: I believe that she was a brilliant poet who severely limited herself by her use of meter and rhyme.
If one is seeking to buy a volume of “Southern Literature” for someone who takes a simple joy in their Southern Life, this would be a perfect piece of literature. But one who is seeking to gift a poet, or one cultured in literature and its affects, needs to have the following as a disclaimer: one must seek one’s treasure. What I mean is that the incessant iambic feet and ABCB… rhyme scheme get a bit… well…monotonous, amateur, and boring. Someone seeking poetry for the sake of experiencing art, were they impatient in their endeavors, would most likely put the book down after a few poems. The problem is that this is a very sad truth. If the book were filled with this type of poem, setting it down so soon would be no great loss, but it isn’t. There are several real gems buried here, some poems that honestly made me stop reading for a second to say “wow” and then hope to find another so beautiful for its mere simplicity.
This is the spark of this collection: its simple moments. What Mrs. Neely-Dorsey is trying to capture here in so many of her poems is the simple beauty of Southern life. When she gives up on trying to portray that through the frills of what a naïve reader would consider the necessities of poetry and just writes, she honestly captures something: form matches content and the beauty that art can manifest shines through. I would like to close with two short poems that I think really express my point, where attempts at meter and rhyme are dropped and the only thing that holds the poem together as a poem are its words and the idea they are attempting to communicate, to capture.
I want to be
Your favorite book,
That you read
Over and over again,
From cover to cover,
And get lost in the story.
Not a fairy tale.
Not a mystery.
No cliff hangers.
Do you remember
Picking up the phone…
“Could I make a call, please?”
“It’s an emergency.”
“Thank You.” Click.
Or listening in on some juicy gossip,
Or some steamy love talk late at night,
Easing up the receiver …Slowly…Carefully…
“Be quiet, they’ll hear us.”
“Hey you kids, quit playing on the phone!”
“Uhhh..ohhhh, we’re caught.” Click.