NOT IN A BOOK, poems by Ellen W. Richards, prints by Cynthia A. White; Pothole Press, Bangor, Maine, 2012; 28 pages, saddle stitched, $8.
Ellen Richards and Cynthia White’s booklet with the obliquely oxymoronic title “Not in a Book” is a collection of well-expressed, homespun little poems on life’s simplest simplicities illustrated with skillful printmaking images.
The dominant moods of this booklet are thoughtful good humor and wistfulness, and the dominant images are from nature and home. What’s “not in a book,” we gather from the title poem which opens the collection, is our actual experience of the world:
the sun’s home behind the forehead
telling the solstice
the wasp fallen from the ceiling
who meant to see spring
Actual experience takes place “behind the forehead,” not in a book. What’s with the book, then?
The answer seems to be that the poems and images in the book express, or in contemporary parlance share feelings and impressions of everyday experience: affection for an old cat, a very old cat, a startling osprey, the longing for lost youth. “Visitor,” illustrated by an evocative color print (pasted onto the page, homemade-style) of two women sitting at a table, communicates this sense of sharing:
Since we two wanderers have need to hide
and shelter our cold persons as we may
from icy wind and snowy streets outside,
let us take pleasure in our noon today.
The one truly somber poem among these works of the past dozen years or so is “September 11, 2001,” which unfolds some of the terrible imagery of that day and also the various feelings of pity, helplessness, emptiness, solidarity and close spirituality felt by practically all Americans. Like the others, this poem expresses feelings very near to home even while its subject is large.
This is an evocative little collection for readers who like to feel their own day-to-day moments and memories shared in warm, completely unpretentious, plain yet intelligent language and imagery.
Ellen Richards lives in Bangor and teaches at the Hammond Street Senior Center. Printmaker Cynthia White of Washington, Maine, is a founding partner of the Downtown Gallery there. The pair’s previous chapbook “Spheres” was published by Pothole Press in 2000. “Not in a Book” is available by writing to Pothole Press, c/o Ellen Richards, 83 Center St. Apt. 2, Bangor 04401.