Compartments: Poems on Nature, Feminitity and Other Realms
by Carol Smallwood

Anaphora Literary Press, 2011. ISBN 978-1-937-53600-8.
Reviewed by Trilla Pando
Posted on 11/29/2011


Carol Smallwood is a brave woman. In this book of varied poems she faces life, the good parts and the hard parts, squarely in the eye. While dividing her life into the "compartments" referenced in the title, she realizes and declares in her preface that no life can be completely compartmentalized. Nature will overlap into home, society, or femininity. Work will impinge on mortality, and the other way around.

The poems cover a wide range, not only in subject, but also in tone, ranging from the lightheartedness of a soaring dragonfly and a spider weaving the first curtain for the new white walls to the seriousness of life threatening disease. This is a great book for "dipping into."

Naturally, some of the poems resonant more for me than others, although all have appeal. As a tiny girl, I too had a neighbor that the big kids convinced me was a witch. Today, I collect items for my grandchildren the way Smallwood accumulates stamps for hers. And, right at the beginning, I had to catch my breath when I read "A Green So Emerald." A captured moment.

Smallwood, however, is brave not only because of her deep honesty. She is brave because she has put her poems out here for the rest of us to enjoy. How many would-be poets are there, who (like me) scribble and write and then put away? "Not good enough." "I'll get better." But Smallwood declares, "I've always regarded writing poetry as beyond me until realizing I had nothing to lose by exploring this greatly admired world." Where she has gone on these explorations! Villnelles and sestinas, cinquain and blank verse, and more. Fearlessly.

While reading this book, I dug out my old poetry notebook, read up on these forms and more, and took off.

Thank you, Carol Smallwood, I'm off to try a triolet.

Carol Smallwood's work appeared in Best New Writing 2010. She is the author of Writing and Publishing: The Librarian's Handbook, published by the American Library Association. Her forthcoming (2012) book on women, writing and family will be her 26th book.

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