Reviews

Part of the Crowd

JILL MANDRAKE

Poetry books published in 219 had the disadvantage of little or no promotion, as the COVID-19 lockdown soon followed. Crowded Mirror (Durga Press) is a case in point. Any of these fifty-one poems by Sheila Delany, medieval scholar and professor emerita of Simon Fraser University, would have generated an amazing response at an in-person book launch. This collection is like fifty shades of near-boundless creativity. The longest, most intricate poems are “Doctor Jazz,” “Scenes from real life,” “Astraea in exile” and “Two heads.” A woman who voluntarily grew two heads is the narrator of the latter poem. One head resembles Janis Joplin, the other Sophia Loren. Halfway through the narrative, Sophia, trying to be helpful but coming off as patronizing, tells Janis that every woman needs three things: a good lawyer, a good therapist and a good hairdresser. Janis replies, “I got ’em all… and they all put the make on me.” The continuing banter resembles not only a crowded mirror, but also a crowded psyche. The shortest, most impactful poems are “Three,” “Birthday eve,” a character study called “Dianne” and a haiku that begins “This apple deserves.” The latter poem is reminiscent of William Carlos Williams’s “This Is Just to Say,” although the tree fruit’s delectability in Delany’s haiku is conveyed in fewer words. The poem with the most force may be the mid-length “Mistakes,” comprised of musings about a relationship’s final curtain; a series of one-liners delivered by a stand-up tragedian. These sad and wistful lines actually have an affirmative, if not happy, ending. The closing one reads, “He thought he’d never stop crying.” But this is a poem about mistakes, so there’s some relief in knowing that he was mistaken; he did stop crying.

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JILL MANDRAKE

Jill Mandrake writes strange but true stories and leads Sister DJ’s Radio Band, featuring rhythm and blues covers, post-vaudeville original tunes and occasional comedy bits. https://hido.bandcamp.com/album/the-neti-pot

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