On the Rim of Wonder
by Juliana Lightle

Uno Mundo Press, 2014. ISBN 978-1-497-47104-7.
Reviewed by Diane Stanton
Posted on 09/29/2014


On the Rim of Wonder is a collection of poems by Juliana Lightle. The slim volume is a memoir presented in nine sections and progresses from views of the author's parents, early childhood and family life into to adult life, aging, and contemplative views of death. In her dedication, Lightle greets us with an a quote from dancer Judith Jamison, "...You are defined by you." In each of her poems, Lightle shares this description of who she is and choices she has made which define her. "I am driven to do very little—obsessions, compulsions do not run me," she says.

In the first section, Lightle defines herself in the traditions of her heritage. In "Barbie" Doll," Lightle tells us her mother was "strong, willful, free" and in "My Mother Taught Me" she celebrates the traditions the household management techniques passed on to her such as making a cake, cleaning house, riding a pony, and breathing to sing. In "Destino," she remembers her father who "lived ninety years on the farm...longing to travel...to be a doctor." She reflects upon his instilling in her a love of "traveling, reading, trying the untried, a pride in the land and work, and a sense of wonder." In "The Nap" she acknowledges these qualities in herself: remembering her father's naps, she finds herself in the same position "exactly as my father." In addition to introducing the reader to the author, these poems afford Lightel a platform from which she conveys a comfort with herself.

In the next few sections, and throughout the book, Lightle reveals what must be considered significant incidents in her life. Each section of her collection is introduced with a quote, and the poems seem to respond to the quote as if Lightle is in conversation with herself. Section V is a good example of this. She addresses marriage and opens with quotes from Oscar Wilde (One should always be in love / This is reason one should never marry); Abraham Lincoln (Marriage is neither heaven nor hell, it is simply purgatory); and Groucho Marx (Marriage is a wonderful institution, but who wants to live in an institution?). Her reflective responses occur in "Finding Love" where she muses, "To love someone so long, so deeply/is a gift I have never been given." And, in "My Story," she wonders, "Can I settle? / For what, with whom, where?"

In the last section, Lightle quotes and Iraqi body washer. "People make things too complicated. We all know how this ends." And, while she champions Dylan Thomas's words, "Rage, rage against the dying of the light," she concludes with a more somber reflection on meeting death on her own terms: "I want to bravely/walk toward death/arms wide open, welcoming."

There's a conversational tone here that evokes a response from this reader. I find that I am making comments on the pages, in response to her poetry. This is true throughout the volume as Lightle celebrates her life through words and images. She includes a few black and white photographs, but they do not do justice to the emotional power of her words. More poems would have been much appreciated.

From the first introductory poem prior to the autobiographical section, Lightle empowers herself and the reader. She challenges, "Choose! Be who you want to be; do what you want to do." Her voice is active, her words empowering, and my only response can be, "I will!"

Raised on a family farm, Juliana Lightle became a college administrator, corporate manager, singer, race horse breeder, management consultant, author, and educator. She holds a Ph.D. from The Ohio State University and a B.A. and M.A. from the University of Rhode Island. She is a board member of the Story Circle Network, a group dedicated to women telling their stories. Currently, she writes, sings, teaches, and raises horses in the Panhandle of Texas. Visit her website.

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