An independent small press poetry review

NHI independent review
Poems by Loosely Identified
edited by Nanora Sweet and Rebecca Ellis
Cherry Pie Press
28 Glen Ridge Drive
Gel Carbon
IL 62034
ISBN 0 9748468 0 5

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This page last updated: 10th December 2007.

Loosely Identified is a group of women poets who come together through a poetry workshop in St Louis, USA. They have been meeting since 1974, formed as a group to share the strong bond of the Women's Movement. There are now seven of the original members remaining, joined by some thirty new poets as time has passed. The booklet I am reviewing here, BREATHING OUT, is a truly collective piece of work. Editing was carried out by all of the contributors, who worked to peer review the work submitted. Each of the 21 poets featured has 2-4 poems included. The work throughout is strong, visual and evocative. Each poet places her own mark within the booklet. There are, though, some themes that run through the work. There are poems about grief, poems about the companionship of an older woman, and poems about the writing of poems. In each theme there is high quality work. The poems appear grouped by poet in alphabetical order.

I have read the whole through several times now, and have not found a poor poem. I particularly liked the work of Linda Beaver, Rebecca Ellis, Tess Farnham, Jane Holwerda, Colleen McKee and Marilyn Probe.

Linda Beaver's poem LINEAGE brings vividly to mind the idea of watching old home movies some time ago and adding the sounds from the memories of the people. I loved the imagery in this poem.

Rebecca Ellis writes in WHAT GOOD IS A POEM about loss in a gentle, understated way.

					I read slowly,
	a poem about birch trees, young boys  Robert Frost.
	She's transfixed,
	and for the entire poem
	she and I are minds together in the same room.
And she ends the poem with
	Two months later, she's gone.
	What good is a poem.
	What good
	Is a poem.   What good.
Her other poem in this collection, WHAT DO THE DEER SEE is also beautifully put together a balanced poem taking the idea that the deer in the woods see us within our fences and are mystified.

I also really like the way that Jane Holwerda's poem ALWAYS rattled through the dreams of a woman. The language in this poem works so sharply with

	so tragic she is always
	love and tomorrows and cellos
	embraced and cradled moaning
The poem continues to dance through to the final image of
	another Ophelia
	floating on a pond.
My other favourite poem was SAW A HERON, ATE A POEM by Marilyn Probe. The opening
	I wish I could catch a poem in a dazzling flash
	the way the Great Blue nabs a fish.
uses language so well. I love the use of "nabs". The comparison between a bird catching a fish and the poet catching the poem is an idea that has been used before, I'm sure. But it is executed brilliantly.

Selecting a few of the poems from the collection seems unfair on the others. I could have chosen many more to comment on and extract from. This is a great collection, and I hope that the Loosely Identified collective will breathe more collections in the future.

Yes, I came to this booklet to review it a little nervously. I had no doubt that I would be able to glean something from the work, but this was a very consciously feminine work, with many of the poets being very clear about their feminist credentials in their biographical notes at the back. I approached the work as a male writer. I don't think I need have worried my gender didn't feel like it was an issue. I was so impressed with the poetry in this booklet, that I wish I could become an honorary member of their group even for just one meeting! The booklet as a whole leaves one with a feeling of the kindred spirits at work in their poetry workshop that has survived thirty years.

reviewer: Stuart Eglin.