Fragments from the Biography of Nemesis
by Lois Marie Harrod

Cherry Grove, 2013. ISBN 978-1-625-49009-4.
Reviewed by Carol Smallwood
Posted on 05/23/2013


Catie Rosemurgy, author of The Stranger Manual, notes on the back cover: "A deceptive evenness dominates Lois Harrod's Fragments from the Biography of Nemesis—an evenness of stanza, of tome. But the reader soon clings to this steadiness, this solidity, because these poems are determined to convince us how partial and unexpected the world is."

An example of the unexpected is the poem, "Slot Canyon":

Gaze at the clouds
and the earth opens

slickrock sandstone sluice
long boulder to the bottom

water maybe, quicksand
and a handful of slimy clay

as you pass, dry water
descending into an icy pool

and you, poor fool, you
forgot your wet suit

The collection of seventy poems is divided into three sections: Firmament; Fragments from the Biography of Nemesis; and This Pilgrim's Progress. Several of her poems have locations such as: Delaware Water Gap; Route 31, south of Ringos, New Jersey; Great Pond, Wellfleet, Massachusetts.

Harrod's poems often include classical names like Midas, Pliny the Younger, Ulysses, Penelope, Vesuvius, Phoenix, Epimetheus, Prometheus, that echo the collections title and Zeus and Hera cover. The goddess, Nemesis, is connected with retribution, an important theme for the Classical Greeks: justice that cannot be escaped as in the tragedies of Sophocles.

Her observation is sharp and poignant. In "The Crow" the poem concludes:

But the crow sat leafless
in the silent tree

no song for himself
or another.

a homeless bird
his black cloak

hunched around
his thin shoulders

making us all

Her sense of humor is evident in "You Could Buy a New Sky" in the conversations with the car salesman:
So how many clouds per hour
can I count on?—I try to sound

wise to his pitch—how much
thunder under the hood?

He gets out the specs.
One bolt of lightning from this baby

can toast
160,000 slabs of bread.

I don't eat that many carbs,
I say, but it might be handy on long trips.

Oh, especially at night, he says,
when there is no moon.

Her appreciation of nature is evident in "What the Polar Bear Sings"
White on white, the slip
of midnight clouds

on midnight snow
the stretch of artic ice

This poet casts a wide net for her poems from the classics, everyday life, to the Internet, and comes up with surprises for the reader and fresh ways of seeing modern life.

Lois Marie Harrod won the 2012 Tennessee Chapbook Prize and her eleventh book was published by Black Buzzard Press in 2011. Her chapbooks have won various prizes and over 600 of her poems have been published in such journals as the American Poetry Review, Verse Daily, and Zone 3. Harrod teaches at The College of New Jersey. Visit her website.

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