THE WATCHERS by Memye Curtis Tucker


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paper 0-8214-1253-1 Louis Simpson picked this debut volume for the press’s Hollis Summers Prize: a varied and modestly ambitious gathering of mainly short poems by an editor of the Atlanta Review. Tucker’s simple delights verge on the quaint, and little sticks with you afterward, though her title provides a link to the many seemingly disparate poems here: we watch, and are watched by, others, sometimes the spirits of the past. “Ghosts” finds the poet trying to satisfy the demanding standards set by her grandmothers, who knew how to do everything just so. In “a world shaped/by absence,” Tucker clings to assorted things: objects of joy (a piece of Persian inlay, a fossil) and childhood memories (many of fishing with her father; fire drills in school; a music teacher’s castanets). The bulk of her poems involve watching, mostly at museums, where she studies a guide signing for the deaf (—Unknown Tongues—), a saber-toothed tiger skull, portraits that remind her of family members (—Rainy Afternoon in a Provincial Museum—), a mesmerizing Rothko canvas (—Equinox—), and a photo of Einstein (—At the Energy Museum—). Her insights are minimalist, faux- Asian in their unwillingness to move beyond observation and description. The truest poems celebrate family: her husband’s photos, her son’s etchings, and the signs of life when she approaches her house at night. Despite some winning lines and small pleasures, Tucker’s miniatures seem stunted more often than pared down.

Pub Date: Nov. 1st, 1998
ISBN: 0-8124-1252-3
Page count: 72pp
Publisher: Ohio Univ.
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15th, 1998