VERY CLOSE AND VERY SLOW by Judith Hemschemeyer


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The day I finally decided/ To be a poet -- yesterday --/ I found I had everything I needed;/ A clean pair of jeans/ Half a bottle of bourbon. . . ."" Hemschemeyer, who published her first book of poetry in 1973, may not have ""everything,"" but she does have the ability to revisit an occasion -- say, grandma and sister Nellie getting together to wash their long black, Irish hair -- with total sensual recall. And she attacks the most painful themes -- the suicide by hanging of a woman very close to her, an abortion -- with impressive toughmindedness. These are short, brittle poems, and for the most part very good indeed. Experience has been separated into abrupt flashes of devastating imagery, such as that abortion -- ""sweating out every inch/ Of this little haiku"". . . . ""That washboard sensation is the scraping/ Okay, I'm a melon rind. . . ."" If only this energy and anger could be sustained; too often the appearance of the ""I"" signals an abrupt surrender with poem after poem ending ""But who will help me,"" ""But I forget what I was going to be"". . . or, ""I'm still staring after you/ A ruined peasant too stunned to raise my fist."" Despite her gut level subject matter, Hemschemeyer could go deeper still. Yet even the process of dosing herself off -- ""I used to have fur/ and dimensions/ and handles. . . . Now I'm a sphere/ Made of plates/ Of vanadium poems. . ."" -- has been honestly confronted.

Pub Date: March 1st, 1975
Publisher: Wesleyan Univ. Press