By Margaret Lloyd
Open Field Press
Margaret Lloyd wears several hats: English professor and creative writing teacher; chairwoman of the humanities department at Springfield College; painter; poet. Lloyd, of Northampton, has combined the last two in her newest poetry collection, “Forged Light,” by Open Field Press, also of Northampton.
In this 70-poem volume, Lloyd has included reprints of five of her abstract watercolor landscapes, which she uses to introduce each of five separate groups of poems. The first section, “Tales,” offers her take on historical and mythological figures, from the Greek goddess Persephone to Branwell Brontë, brother of Emily and Charlotte. The second section, “World Wanting a Voice,” examines aspects of her past, including her roots in her native Wales.
In her work, Lloyd reflects on life’s ambiguities and mysteries, as well as the way the past circles back to impact the present. One section of “Forged Light” — Lloyd’s watercolor of the same title is on the book’s cover — explores the author’s experience of caring for her dying mother, and in those poems Lloyd invokes both mystical and quotidian images of loss.
“I call my mother on the phone and we sit in silence / as she listens to the nurses’ conversations,” says the narrator of ‘Winter.’ “I could be calling her in heaven / where she prefers to listen to angels talking / while they wheel others in, taking off heavy coats / welcoming them. She knows I am somewhere / down on earth holding a phone and straining after her.”
Lloyd also writes of the earth itself, its legacy and varied landscapes, both pleasing and haunting. In “Under a Sky,” three people walk along a road in an undefined place past “stone and cattails” and “wild roses and fens,” continuing endlessly: “Even in the winter months / we’d be walking, moving always./ Past cities and ruined farms. Past / stands of birch and the sea.”
Margaret Lloyd will read from her new poetry collection at a book launch Thursday at 7 p.m. at the A.P.E. Gallery in Northampton. She’ll be joined by Roz Driscoll, who will read from her new book, “Conjured from Dust.” The event is free and will be followed by a book signing and reception.
By Gail Martin
Perugia Press of Florence is a true niche press: Each year it publishes one book by a female poet who’s in the early stages of her career. This year the work of Gail Martin, a psychotherapist from Kalamazzo, Mich., was selected from over 500 submissions, according to Perugia Press.
Martin, whose first book was published in 2003, writes with irony and wit but also looks straight at the pain life can bring, the gap between expectations and mundane realities. Her voice is mostly that of the mid-life narrator assessing the state of a marriage, the lives of her children, the decline of her mother.
She uses several styles of verse to tell these stories, including small vignettes that dispense with conventional meter and form and read almost like diary entries. There are explorations of nature and accounts of seeking quiet in the country.
In “How I Feel When It Stops,” Martin contrasts a biblical rainfall with a woman’s crumbling marriage: “It started when my husband left, / a steady sluice of water without / wind.” As the rain continues to fall and floodwaters rise, the narrator is forced to confront the fact that her husband won’t be coming back.
“When it finally stops, I’ll be in the dark / watching a movie where each scene / includes wine, noticing how wine and rain / sound nearly alike. Waiting for some / unknotting, resignation of acceptance.”
Gail Martin will read from her collection on Nov. 8 at 7:30 p.m. at the The State Room, 35 State St., in Northampton. Also reading will be Amanda Auchter, the 2012 Perugia Press prize winner, and Northampton writer and writing instructor Joan Barbeich.