Mini-Reviews: Goodison and Bingham


Two luminous collections of poetry are due back at the library today, so here are a few summaries to whet your appetite and, hopefully, trigger either a purchase or an ILL request.

Image spotted at Quill & Quire - click through to read review.

Image spotted at Quill & Quire – click through to read review.

Supplying Salt and Light, Lorna Goodison. You get the sense, diving into this collection, that you’ve entered a powerful story in medias res, an adventure you don’t quite understand, but want to. These are movement poems, travel poems, poems about pilgrimage and adventure, with the sense of home looming in the background for contrast. Stories of personal travel and stories of peoples’ migration intertwine, starting in Spain and spreading out all over the world. Opening the book at random, we find this passage from “In the Blue Boarding House,” a poem about a way-station on the journey:

Life there was one long low-residency program for ones
aspiring to live somebody else’s life done lived.
Miss lady owned the cream gardenia; you? no flower.

Goodison’s poems are filled with air and light, and, everywhere, vivid color. The poetry invites you to travel with her, learn who she is, where she has been, and, especially, where she and her people are going. Graciously loaned by Amherst College.

What We Ask of Flesh, Remica L. Bingham. From the power of air to that of earth, Bingham’s

Image taken from The Offending Adam - click through to read review.

Image taken from The Offending Adam – click through to read review.

volume turns on the physicality of the body, specifically, the Black body, and the many uses and abuses to which it has been put. Anchored in scripture and rooted in the lived experience of women both known and unknown to the poet, Bingham’s collection invites the reader to consider, not the lilies of the field, but the hands, arms, back, breasts, and scars of women walking in this world.

The poems are woven together in such a way that it’s difficult to quote any one of them without divorcing them from their context. In this sense, the body of Bingham’s work is, truly, a body: you cannot quote one piece of it without stripping it of the meaning it derives from being surrounded by its sisters.”Things I Carried Coming Into The World” mirrors this structure in miniature, a long list of events and experiences (as ever, rooted in the body) that the speaker has made part of herself by internalizing them:

The weight of my parents,
the dawn of them;
my grandmother’s lackluster
life; the guilt of my grandfather’s mistress
after he’d been scalded with hot

We carry, the speaker seems to be arguing, our lineage around with us in our bones. Even in death, we are subject to it, an idea Bingham explores in “Will and Testament”:

Cremate me. Do it quickly and without fanfare,
unless this troubles my mother.

If she can’t stand the thought of not seeing me
slick and stiff in a prettied-up box,

give her what she wants;
even in death there are sacrifices.

Don’t take my word for it, though — this volume isn’t really meant to be reviewed in the traditional way, picked apart and analyzed for meaning. That’s far too much like the epigraph from the Book of Judges that introduces the long poem, “The Body Speaks.” Instead, make the purchase / borrow yourself, and sink deep into the experience. Feel how powerful and strong it is, this body you live in. Think about the bodies of women who are, and are not, like you. What their bodies represent, to them, and to the world. How they walk in them every day. Graciously loaned by Villanova University.


2 Responses to “Mini-Reviews: Goodison and Bingham”

  1. Thank you so much for this lovely ‘mini-review’. I’m so glad to know the work spoke to you all in some way. — Light, Remica L Bingham

    • Oh! Thank YOU for stopping by to leave a comment, and for sharing your gifts with the world! I’m always happy to recommend good work.

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