June is poetry chapbook review month at Reiter’s Block! I’ve been catching up on my large collection of small press gems, some newly published, some winners of contests from a few years ago. Like an exquisitely arranged plate of sushi, the chapbook is a perfect way to savor the bold, exotic flavors of poetry in a manageable portion size. The thematic interplay among the poems can be more apparent in a shorter, focused collection.
Roberta Beary’s Deflection (Accents Publishing, 2015) is a resonant, poised collection of free verse inspired by Japanese poetic forms. The book embodies the haiku aesthetic of saying much with little, of self-restraint as testament to depth of feeling. The majority of the poems deal with loss: the end of a relationship, the death of a parent, a son’s transformation into a stranger who makes risky choices. Yet the austere poetic style gives the reader a breathing space to assimilate each stab of insight before the next comes. The haiku-like three-line stanzas that interrupt or close certain narrative passages offer a welcome shift, a moment to be mindful of beauty that exists apart from our personal dramas.
Follow Roberta Beary on Twitter @shortpoemz and visit her website for more sample poems and “photoku” (haiku paired with images), bibliography, and schedule of upcoming readings.
She has kindly allowed me to reprint the following poems. I was particularly struck by the final image in “Before the Outing”, which sheds a more sympathetic light on the parents’ discomfort with their son’s orientation. Whether the narrator’s perception of danger in this partnership is true or a projection, it suggests that homosexuality unsettles people because male sexual desire makes its object vulnerable.
BEFORE THE OUTING
my son’s boyfriend
three words i practice saying
alone in my room
not to see
still you step back
from my son
and his boyfriend
mother tiptoes around
with knife in hand
my son’s lover dissects
the last white peach
May is the month of Mary every day in May
be sure to wear something blue in Mary’s honor
that never was it known that anyone who fled
to thy protection implored thy help or sought
thy intercession was left unaided patent leather
shoes are not allowed because boys must be
kept free from temptation to thee do I come
before thee I stand sinful and sorrowful always
remember your guardian angel despise not my
petitions but in thy mercy hear and answer me
the baby face
in my wallet