THE DOOR OPEN TO THE FIRE by Judith Vollmer

THE DOOR OPEN TO THE FIRE

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Chatty and free-flowing, Vollmer's best poems are generous celebrations of Pittsburgh and her ethnic family; the winner of Wisconsin's Brittingham Prize for her first book, Level Green (1991), Vollmer teaches college writing, and incorporates her experiences in a number of overly loose poems, in which she quotes her students, who also complain about her poetic models, including James Wright, the subject of a long homage for his portraits of hobos. Given to political rants, she recalls teaching in a ""barbaric"" high school during the Reagan years, when she ""had eaten Reagan/like a dot/of blotter acid,"" whatever that means. Vollmer frankly details her sexual history as well, remembering a long-ago abortion (""Passing the Clinic in a Small Town"") and then, in ""What She Didn't Tell Him,"" recalling the joyful relief afterward. A walker in the city, the poet sees ""the poor"" and ""the workers,"" but she's also capable of more subtle observation: ""We Built This City"" inventories its multitudes; ""Night Walks"" recommends a nocturnal journey (with mythic echoes) as an antidote to insomnia; and her one fully realized poem, ""The Approach,"" matches its claustrophobic couplets to her experience stuck in a traffic jam underground, with the promise of light ahead. With the tribal/ethnic force of Forche or Broumas, Vollmer sings herself and her city.

Pub Date: Sept. 22nd, 1998
Page count: 80pp
Publisher: Cleveland State Univ.