Wednesday, March 10, 2010

To Hold My Hand: Selected Poems

Morley, Hilda. To Hold My Hand: Selected Poems. New York, NY: Sheep Meadow Press,1983.

Morley's Selected Poems spans her entire career as a “serious” poet, from 1953 to 1983. Aesthetically, the poet's writing remains consistent throughout the extent of those thirty years. Her poems, and the lines therein, develop and structure themselves around the breath and the organic process of actualizing breath in the written word. As such, Morley uses half-line breaks extensively; or, in her own words: “exact in separateness,/ as she is/ in her words, no waste in her/ & moving in ways most needful only,/ seeing/ within exactitude, with clarity/ in what the body/ needs, what it remarks on” (12). Not surprisingly, then, the poet's content most often centers on a) movements and b) the manner in which nature and the individual enter into a reciprocal relationship. Both of these characteristics manifest themselves in the poem “The Shutter Clangs,” when Morley writes: “those birds you imaged/ flying out of your mouth/ in thousands/ at your death/ & what were light & fire stretching themselves/ ever farther into fire & light/ danced with them,/ shaping & forming—dispersed, dissolved” (181). Ultimately, these relationships and movements work to transform, or metamorphose the speaker so as to facilitate “an exchange of all things” (22) through “fragment/ along fragment,/ phrase over phrase,/ sentence,/ image joined to each other” (41) wherein “words take on/ direction/...turn/ away” into new and unfamiliar territory, all the while retaining a “rightness,” speed, and rhythm (207). In this sense, many, if not most of her poems in the “Makers” section of the book can be read as meta-poetic statements, particularly the Matisse poems.

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