by Joann Boswell
Fernwood Press, 2020
Paperback, 306 pages
Reviewed by Ed Higgins
Joann Boswell’s volume of poems and photographs Cosmic Pockets ranges from wry humor to serious religious-philosophical reflections, often combining both. The autobiographical voice of the mostly I-narrator draws you into immediate, intimate conversation with Boswell’s varying subject matter, which ranges from personal autobiographical experiences to the universals of human joys and sufferings.
The opening poem “Linear” sets forth a non-linear next-to-last stanza that foreshadows much of the collection’s contents:
But I’m a reader
peeking at the last
page before returning
where I left off.
Her deft ability to entertain us with poetic magic while entrusting and enlightening us with her thoughts and verbal magic, images, metaphors, and narrative troupes is spellbinding.
Joann’s close observations and recounted experiences of the everyday-of-things evokes a range of emotions and shared awareness that leaves us with the discovered grace of subjects seen up close—and the shared intimacy of joys and sorrows revealed in the otherwise humdrum landscapes of our lives. We are brought to common/un-common places in Boswell’s crafting of a life observed, explored, and skillfully set forth with playful, serious, and celebratory perceptions through wit and a poet’s gift of witness to our shared humanity. We look at and into the world of surfaces while seeing its inner geometries, renewed and refreshed with teeming clarity.
This is clear especially in her puns, double entendre, and bemused scenes/settings. As in, for example, “Fluid,” with:
smiles I am
p r o g r e s s i n g
Or, as in her revelation(s) of lost innocence in “Alma Mater,” where near the poem’s ending: “so much I hold dear in this flawed space/I long to return, not in time but place/infuse faith in a different way, welcoming/differences, explorations, questioning . . .”
Or with the sad/satire musing(s) of “Mustard Seed,” such as: “subtract/people who party from your life, read/your Bible, pray everyday, only listen/to Christian music, PG movies are okay/sometimes, Veggie Tales is cool, side-/hugs save, eye contact/ruins lives . . .”
Later, much like the image/metaphor in “Skeptical Mystic” with its shedding light/Light on tentative religious experience:
as into a pool, I slip unnoticed
side door, wade around the edge
watch, wait, test it—poised to escape
flood the margins with whispered queries
is it real? is it true?
is it packaged, produced, replicated
reverence? what do I witness?
I smiled at the love and amusing eroticism of “My Hot Tub, Matt” with its coy “oxytocin surges” and “snuggled, cuddle puddle. . . . too desperate even for coitus.” A much-fun love poem.
As with many of the pieces I’m intrigued with, there are visually interesting/arresting forms/formats in various poems. “Divine Doc Bozzy” is one in particular. I like how, cleverly, the three columns of Past/Present/Future interact with one another and can/should be read both in down-column as well across the three columns in each line. Other poems also offer interesting use of line breaks and column structures that have visual as well as reading impact.
Much more can be said about this engaging poetry that envisions so much, celebrates so much—questioning everything from the personal to the cosmic. Even the voice/person of God gets called in for a say, as in “Imposter Syndrome” near the collection’s end. Here, God makes his/our apology in the best of theological traditions—with suitable humor, ending in the last stanza with an amusing faux-lament from the deity himself:
i am not
magic. i am intentional.
simply put, you inspire me
as it seems i inspire you.
co-creators, please credit
yourselves. it is lonely up here.
join me. you’ve got this.
if you feel like a fraud, it’s okay,
i’m pretty sure
I AM imposter too.
All this is to say that, from beginning to end these, these poems are engaging on many levels of enjoyment and challenge and thoughtfulness. This is a collection to be pulled from the shelf that you may be struck by their wise thoroughness of Truth’s vital beauty.
Order (or preorder) the book here on the Barclay Press Bookstore website.
Visit Joann’s website to learn more about the book.
© 2020 by Christian Feminism Today.
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