Editor and award-winning poet Carol Smallwood’s most recent collection Divining the Prime Meridian keeps the reader tuned inward. No detail is overlooked from the longevity of mayflies to the leaning rose after a rain.
Carol opens her book with an explanation about “divining or divination” — the idea of separation that provides insight. She speaks of the comfort her first atlas brought; this idea of organizing the water, deserts, land, mountains, and polar caps into colors, capturing in a sense what is large and vast into something readable and understandable.
She too divides life into an atlas of sorts. She separates domestic life from the natural world, pits physical health against a mental realm and sets seasons apart from geography. This need to order is pervasive in her work. She begins with a poem on lace—the beauty of lace resides in what is repetitive. Frequently filing images in the cabinetry of poetry she continually revisits this need to order. In her poem “How to Make a Quilt,” patchwork pieces must be the/same width to make a proper quilt…sewing alternating plain/and pattern pieces. Despite this observation of order, of categorizing she divides that line from chaos to order from order to chaos again. In this poem, she recognizes when the final rows are sewed/together, there’s no telling/where patterns will fall.
The poet here questions this chaos but in a way that the science of surprises defines and reorders the chaos into the expected. In “Seeing the Moon During Day” we see the moon in a different light, a skeleton of what it can be and is. In this, I believe the poet feels she too is like the moon, something naked and exposed and yet predictable and unpredictable in what those have been witness to before.
We have come to expect the brilliance of the moon, its many phases against the night sky but we too accept that it remains in that sky long after the sun has risen. Much like our own lives that Carol unravels and reorders for us, she focuses us back on that truth that despite what should be often contradicts our expectations.
About the author:
Christine Redman-Waldeyer is a poet and Assistant Professor of English at Passaic County Community College, N.J. and earned her D.Litt from Drew University in writing. She is currently finishing her Ed. D. in higher education at Rowan University. She has published three poetry collections, Frame by Frame, Gravel, and Eve Asks (all with Muse-Pie Press), co-edited Writing after Retirement: Tips from Successful Retired Writers, Rowman & Littlefield Publishers and has appeared in Paterson Literary Journal, Schuylkill Valley Journal, The Texas Review, Verse Wisconsin, and others. She founded Adanna, a literary journal that focuses on women’s topics. She is a freelance writer for EP Magazine recently covering New Jersey Special Olympics and Tim Shriver’s newly released book, Fully Alive and has served as a program consultant.