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By Jane Satterfield
|Review by: Deborah L. Humphreys||
To travel is always an education, sometimes a luxury, often a necessity. It can be a blessing to spend time just under the skin of anothers geography. To read a poem may be to travel as well. To read a poem from Assignation at Vanishing Point is to journey: across seas, into history, through time with the spirits of other lives lived in exile and in search.
I have been reading and re-reading this collection since I received it in March. I was drawn by the poets own story, British-born, the daughter of an English/Irish mother and an American serviceman, single mother of a young daughter, poet and academician.
Strong with impressionist language, the music of lists, the colloquial nature of deep insights and attitudes, the poems, while crafted photographs of a particular journey, evidence personal and universal feelings of loss, exile, disconnection and longing. In Stanton Moor, Satterfield writes about her interpretation of stone circles:
The use of landscape, particularly the season of winter, works the theme, the challenges of lifes seasons/stations as in Wintering
These poems are so carefully arranged, there occasionally appears to be a sort of enjambment between several poems. A link between senses: if you have trouble understanding the message/you will be able to hear it again (p. 32) and Because I couldnt see, no story took shape/I am still in this absence (p. 33). And seasons in from Shugborough Hall to Wintering: The flowers blown, the petals spent. (p. 18) to The worst winter in ages (p. 19)
I approached this work as one poet taking another on a tour. A friendly invitation, but not one without cost, as in The Rocky Road to Dublin, Satterfield imagines going to find her double in Ireland and wonders how much it cost,/and whos paying?
Initially, the use of the historical figures in several of the poems was an obstacle in my reading. Did I need to know about the references, the lives or writings of saints, philosophers and others? Does the work stand on its own? And what does that mean?
Was I missing an essential element or a level of richness? I am still struggling with this, trusting the poets process for seeing her experience, trusting my own vision of finding meaning and connection. Satterfields images and references may lead to the search As in errancy I inhabit: hunger equals industry. (p. 8) When I use a mix of languages in my own poetry (Irish or Spanish), does that have the same effect upon my readers? Likely. And yet it is an integral part of my process.
This is a collection that favors reading and re-reading. In the moments one plans another trip, we will remember a rush of wind as mother steps outside to peg the wash,/bends again to light the hob whose blue flame leaps/at last into being, a dream of how far one has travelled and will continue to do so.
Assignation at Vanishing Point is available from Elixir Press, Minneapolis, MN.