Divining the Prime Meridian
by Carol Smallwood

Word Poetry, 2015. ISBN 978-1-625-49111-4.
Reviewed by Jazz Jaeschke
Posted on 12/16/2014

Poetry; Nonfiction: Memoir; Nonfiction: Life Lessons

Following her 2014 publication of Water, Earth, Air, Fire and Picket Fences, Carol Smallwood presents another collection of insights and reflections in this new volume of poems. Again, she delivers in a mix of defined form and free verse. Form at times appears to be more the point than content, but even then the phraseology and imagery are worth the reader's patience. By the time you finish these poems, you may well be smitten with the repetitive play of the pantoum form.

A cat Minnie wanders in and out of the poems, as do several named humans, all without any anchoring introductions. And the poet herself seems to wander in and out of McDonald's. These recurrences lend a connectivity to the collection.

A number of the poems are appetizers, stopping short of any specific conclusion. For example, her five-line poem "It Is The Month":

white moths
ultra white
the color
of innocence

Other poems are thorough and deep. Poems about cancer and abuse convey a sense of having been there with her. For example, her poem "The Universe" (about quilting as coping) includes Grandmother's advice "You are not lonely when you sew" and leads the reader to nod in agreement:

I've concluded I'll have no edge or center when I'm dead
and finding security sewing squares is better than fright.
It must be true: the universe has no edge or center as I've read
it makes sense to cut up pieces to sew with needle and thread.

Carol Smallwood is the prolific author of over four dozen nonfiction books, including Women on Poetry: Writing, Revising, Publishing and Teaching, on Poets & Writers Magazine list of Best Books for Writers. Her first poetry collection appeared after a chapbook was nominated for the Pushcart Prize. Her award-winning poems have appeared in literary magazines and anthologies.

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