« Trace | Main | New Pacific »

Forever & a Day

Author: Matthew St. Amand
Genre: Poetry
Reviewed by Ruth Mark

An alternative title to Matthew St. Amand’s book would be “An Ode to Deirdre” because all of the writing within its pages deals with his feelings for finding out that she’s pregnant. This isn’t so much a traditional book of poems as a kind of diary in poems (which read more like songs), essays and letters. We learn for example from the very first page that Deirdre is actually the seventeen year old sister of one of Matt’s former girlfriends. When he hears that she is pregnant it stirs a tumult of emotions within him:

“Your news has come like a knifethrust.”
(from Beginning, pg 12)

And this book was born. As he says himself:

“I cannot let this passing of affection happen without a word. My thoughts on you have lain like a buried, burning river, and must now flow into the light – yet away from you, where you might never know.”
(from Beginning, pg 11)

The poet is in a dilemma, and as such so are his readers. Does he fancy his ex’s sister? Does he regret that he’s not the father of her unborn child? Is there the pang (a favorite word of this poet) of unfulfilled fatherhood, of the what-could-have-been? Or is he just recognizing a kindred spirit in the girl?:

“Who had a moonsweet stare Long candleflame hair,”
(from Away: Ballad composed & sung while on the tear in Dublin, part III, pg 27)

Many of the offerings here do read like love poems. St. Amand repeats his observations and thoughts to the extent that you feel like you are reading the same lines over and over again, like you truly are “Under the Sea” (as one of his poems is titled). He likes to see himself as Deirdre’s friend, while at the same time recognizing that:

“You are a stranger & maybe that’s the appeal. Someone new Who has no idea.”
(from Poem for the Girl I don’t have the guts to talk to, pg 19)

We are being taken on a journey here – from the moment he found out about Deirdre’s pregnancy, to the days just after she gives birth. Memories mixed with regret. As we travel through the book, St. Amand seems to move from curiosity to almost obsession:

“… I go By your house late at night with no business being in your neighborhood.”
(from While Standing on the Sidewalk Outside of Your Apartment Late One Night, pg 44)

We later learn that these late-night forays to her house aren’t a one- off:

“I wish I had more to offer than handpainted postcards that glow in the dark, which I leave in your mailbox after you have gone to bed.”
(from Forever & a day part I, pg 47)

St. Amand admits in a handwritten note at the front of the book that his writing is “more Lou Reed than William Wordsworth” and this is a true reflection. Throughout I caught myself constantly thinking these would make good songs, but poems? I’m not sure. The language is at times thought-provoking yet at the same time familiar:

“…life is more than Planning. It is luck & loss & stumbling Through the dark. Bruised shins & much Guessing.”
(from Poem After Reading Anne Sexton’s “The Abortion”, pg 39)

There are also some lyrical lines here:

“You hovered within yourself in waxy, waveless silence Numbing the air around you.”
(from At the Drive-in, pg 36 – note: Deirdre is 12 years old at the time…)

On the whole the poems are written in straightforward language (with some flights of fancy here and there). This is a light read, pleasant enough to wile away an hour or two. I’ve just one question left to ask though – did Deirdre or her sister (Matt’s ex) ever read this book, and if so what were their reactions? Inquiring minds want to know!


Link

December 1, 2004 in Poetry | Permalink

Comments

As the line from the movie MAGNOLIA goes: "We may by through with the past, but the past ain't through with us."

Yeah, Deirdre's sister at least *knows* about FOREVER & A DAY. She wrote to me a few months back:

"I thought you would like to know that Deirdre is all grown up now...recently married and at present the proud mother of two beautiful girls. She's come a long way. Intersting to read your recent excerpt from Forever and a Day. Actually, extremely interesting...you found a muse to inspire and drive such emotions, I had never known."

As for my book being "a light read," I guess it might be if you consider Chaucer bathroom reading. FOREVER was nine years in the writing, during which I put uncountable miles on my soul, liver and city. That tale is another book entirely.

Posted by: Matt St. Amand | Feb 15, 2005 7:56:37 PM

The comments to this entry are closed.