Troy poet evokes authentic tensions

Posted Aug. 01, 2010, at 7:14 p.m.

ALWAYS THIS FALLING: POEMS by Carolyn Locke; Rockland, Maine, 2010; 58 pages, trade paperback, $14.95.

Carolyn Locke’s book “Always This Falling” is an exploration of tensions. The poet, who presumably is herself the speaker of most of the poems, carefully exposes frictions among family members, between past and present, between what might be and what apparently is, and between inner desires.

A prominent motif is a recurrent conflict between a desire for security and a desire for adventure. The best example of the book’s treatment of this theme — despite the meditative care and accomplishment of the title poem — might be “Swimming in Freedom Pond,” whose well-compressed imagery lays the poet’s adventurous past alongside her son’s adventurous present. The son takes a midnight swim — in November — whose dangers need not be enumerated here, but which the mother feels obliged to point out. But in stark tension, she also recalls, in a gorgeous apostrophe on her own youth:

I think of midnight in Paris.
January 1970. No place to stay.
No thought
of how to get anywhere.
The stonework of the Pont Neuf
burns into the soles
of my feet, and the stars
exploding in the Seine
fill me with something foreign,
intoxicating, addictive.

Then to the son: “But … I must tell you / diving into ponds in mid-November / shows poor judgment.” And finally the full tension circles back when she decides not to tell him that “I would wake this hibernating / body, swim with you, / and feel the quiver of stars.”

This poem provides the best example of this meticulously examined kind of strain which is the tenor of what’s “always falling” here.

These verses are distinct from many other highly personal collections of their ilk by the feeling that these sensibilities are being explored for their actual meaning rather than exploited for literary purposes. A great authenticity of feeling arises from it.

Carolyn Locke lives in Troy and teaches at Mount View High School. Her poems have appeared widely in local publications such as Puckerbrush Review. “Always This Falling” is available through www.maineauthorspublishing.com.

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