Meditations and observations from a young writer who died much too early.
Two short forewords provide biographical information to contextualize this collection of 46 poems, each less than a page in length. The book divides the verses into seven thematic sections, including “Light,” “Outcries,” and, sadly, “Last Poems.” Gesner passed away at the age of 30 from an unspecified illness that lasted 13 years. Readers will have to determine for themselves whether the circumstances of her life will affect their appreciation of her work. Still, it’s hard to downplay the fact that she also endured the loss of her father when she was only 6 years old. The poem dedicated to him reads in its entirety: “A few sun-drenched mornings / A child’s memory erased / A touch, a gesture, a forgotten face.” The length and schematic nature of the text reflect his fleeting presence in her life as well as her acute sense of loss. There are hits and misses in this volume; overall, though, it has an impressive, undeniable depth of feeling. For instance, “Hands on Thanksgiving Day” presents the breaking of the wishbone as the passing down of tradition to different generations. In it, Gesner compares the rough hands of an older relative and the smooth hands of a youngster to different parts of the turkey—symbolism that’s perhaps a bit obvious but nonetheless powerful. “More Than Clouds and Words” features more hand imagery as it describes a girl “who often fetched water / with blossom-white hands / that shook with pain from the bite / pail handles touch.” Here, the author nicely represents a common physical sensation while also suggesting a burden beyond the literal. In “So Deep a Dark,” she portrays night as a shroud and writes: “The eye will place a period / before the sentence is complete.” This statement could symbolize for readers the loss of Gesner’s talent before it was able to develop more fully. However, she also concludes the poem with a hopeful reminder that morning always comes.
Not all the verses here produce the same spark, but certainly enough do to warrant a look.