Meditation on Woman
by Aline Soules

Anaphora Literary Press, 2011. ISBN 978-1-937-53613-8.
Reviewed by Carol Smallwood
Posted on 03/19/2012

Poetry; Nonfiction: Faith/Spirituality/Inspiration

Meditation on Woman is a collection of fifty-six prose poems to be read slowly, a few at a time, to fully appreciate their impact. Each, simply and economically written, begins with the two words, "A woman."

In the opening work, "The Third Eye," woman catches the cycles of her garden on video—winter cracks the lens, spring splinters it as the cycles continue. "In the end, the lens cracks again, into many parts, facing down, angling up, fractured. New shoots. The gardener's boots. Ants. Blooms. All splinter, like a kaleidoscope. Her eye captures fragments of brown, green, blue, pink, the blinding yellow-white of the summer sun."

"Evolution" recalls the magical-realism of Gabriel Garcia Marquez and Isabel Allende: the blending of what is real and unreal as it relates a woman who grows a tail, senses what animals desire, joins them, and grows a coat of hair like them as winter approaches. A woman's connection to the world recurs in "Far and Near." One woman "gazes out a plane window at fields quilting the landscape thirty-five thousand feet below," while the other "hikes a woodland trail and stares into the underbrush." The first sees the world at a distance: "The roads make squares and rectangles around the fields. Lakes are thumbprints pressed into the land. Rivers squiggle and canals angle in thin blue lines. Tree patches are dark and fuzzy. Little towns clump together; house roofs glint in the sun."

In each poem the poet is seeing herself and in the process, the universal—an activity so simple and yet complex, full of surprises and reflections of wonder. I'm looking forward to Soules' next collection to savor, open my eyes, and enjoy the company of a uniquely gifted poet. She clearly is familiar with Doris Lessing's advice: "Have you found a space, that empty space, which should surround you when you write?" Women will especially relate to this contemplative collection, but the poems are so universal that men will appreciate them as well.

Aline Soules, California State University, East Bay faculty member, has appeared in Kenyon Review and Poetry Midwest. She contributed to various anthologies on librarianship including the American Library Association. Meditation on Woman is her first full size collection of poetry. Visit her blog.

(See another review of this book, here)

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