Poetry Review Friday!

Sarah—Of Fragments and Lines

Julie Carr 
Coffee House Press, 2010. $16. 74 pages (paperback original).
This sensitive little collection of poems by Julie Carr chronicles the poet’s reactions, emotions, and feelings that accompany her third pregnancy and the slow decline of her mother. But you don’t have to take my word for it: you can read an interview of Carr here.
Beyond the autobiographical interest raised by this collection, it is notable for its exploration of the interesting symmetry of emotions that come at the beginning and end of life. Carr’s poems seem to be echoes of each other. The feeling I get from reading these poems is almost akin to the process of creation. It’s like when you’re trying to express something, but you don’t know how to say it, so you write a page, rip it out, rewrite it, and it’s different than what you created the first time but with a similar feel. Carr’s poems have a similar layering effect that builds on and complicates the other lines and fragments.
Fragmentation is a fascinating poetic technique. The word “fragment” suggests an incompletion of some sort, whether unfinished or broken apart. It is a claim to something larger than the piece at hand. But what the fragment also provides is an object that is whole even in its incompleteness. It’s this dizzying move from the part to the whole that creates sparks of energy and momentum in this collection.
My favorite might be “Suppression Poem,” lines about silence. But the most moving image (to me) comes in “Pregnancy Fragments.” Carr writes of “Objects arranged synchronically / beginning with foot, then match, then / a photo of the countryside” (p. 43)—I don’t know why this stanza sticks out to me. Saying it over and over in my head … there’s just something powerful in that word, synchronically. I think it encapsulates the mood of this collection, or maybe the theme: that life is arranged by time, nothing else.
I enjoyed this collection. I carried it around with me for several weeks, reading a bit here and there, until I finally curled up with it and finished it in twenty minutes. I would recommend it for both poetry readers and non.

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