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NORTH CAROLINA L I T E R A R Y RE V I E W

POEMS TITLE OF OFREVIEW THE ELEMENTAL: GOES IN THIS BOX HEART USE SOFT ANDRETURN HOME CREATE aTO review by Susan Laughter Meyers LOGICAL LINE J.S. Absher. Mouth Work. BREAKS Laurinburg, NC: St. Andrews University 2016. Name a reviewPress, by Reviewer

First Joyner. Name Last Name. Book Title. Janet Waterborne. City: Publisher, Year. House / Wayne City, NE: Logan Wayne State College Press, 2016. First Name Last Name. Book Title. City: Publisher, Year.

SUSAN LAUGHTER MEYERS is the author of two full poetry collections: My Dear, Dear Stagger Grass (Cider Press Review, 2013; reviewed in NCLR Online 2014) and Keep and Give Away (University of South Carolina Press, 2006). She has reviewed for NCLR numerous times and her poetry has appeared in several issues. In 2013, she won of the James Applewhite Poetry Prize, and her prize poem is in NCLR 2014. J.S. ABSHER has been a records manger, consultant, freelance editor, offset printer, missionary, bank teller, janitor, and teacher. He co-hosts the monthly Second Thursday reading series at Flyleaf Books in Chapel Hill, NC. His poetry has been published in two collections, Night Weather (Cynosura Press, 2010) and The Burial of Anyce Shepherd (Main Street Rag, 2006), and has won various prizes, most recently from Kakalak, the North Carolina Poetry Society, and Big River Poetry Review. He was selected as a finalist in the 2015 James Applewhite Poetry competition for his poem “Biscuits,” which was published in NCLR Online 2016. He lives in Raleigh, NC with his wife, Patti.

Placed side by side, the books Waterborne by Janet Joyner and Mouth Work by J.S. Absher look vastly different. The first is glossy and dreamlike with its color-filled font, its darkish cover art of tree trunks up close, most likely cypress and tupelo in a swamp. The second book is matte, oversized, and unadorned: pale green with a monotone cover photo of what appears to be a rural family of father and four ragtag children. One gives us place; the other, character. What could be more different? Yet these first-impression contrasts begin to converge and dissolve when one opens each book and reads the poems. Yes, Joyner’s approach is largely lyric, whereas Absher’s is mostly narrative; however, in the poems themselves each author offers us place and character, music and story. Both collections contain sonnets and other forms. In fact, both books, against the odds, include a similarly titled poem about beech trees: Joyner’s “November Beeches” and Absher’s “Winter Beeches.” Janet Joyner’s Waterborne, not to be confused with poet Linda Gregerson’s 2004 volume with the same title, won the 2014 Holland Prize. In the collection (her first), Joyner makes full use of water as both a setting and theme throughout. A native of the Pee Dee region of South Carolina, land of rivers and swamps, she never forgets home and her childhood ties to the natural world: “I sing of a river the

color of tea, / fringed with greenery cloaked / in grey-bearded oak or cypress,” she says in “A River the Color of Tea,” referring to water darkened by the tannin from decayed leaves and other vegetation. Her heart is with the small waters of the region more so than the wide open sea, as she indicates in “On the Little Pee Dee”: “No sound will ever rebound over any water / like the putter of a Johnson Evinrude / kicking all its power from only one horse.” In such a setting it is only fitting that her poems brim with small, typically unnoticed flora and fauna – peepers, algae, and tadpoles – as well as larger and more-heralded herons, oaks, and marsh rabbits. Joyner’s poems draw upon a broad foundation of knowledge, from quantum mechanics to geology to myth to music. The intelligence of her poems is by no means stuffy, though, as it readily mixes with wit. “Botany for the Gods,” for example, is a humorous contemporary retelling of myth, most likely that of Daphne and Apollo, in which Daphne asks to be saved from Apollo’s desire and is turned into a laurel tree. In the colloquial retelling there is the supposition that the circumstances could have been abbreviated: OK, maybe this is how it went down. She just decided she was supposed to be a tree to start with, to just go straight for the tree, you know, skip the girl part. . . .

From the very first line, this is a funny poem. Humor recurs throughout the book. Another poem that joins

JANET JOYNER grew up in the South Carolina Low Country and currently lives in Winston-Salem, NC. Until her retirement, she was professor of French Language and Comparative Literature at the UNC School of the Arts. In 2010, she won the Dubose and Dorothy Heyward Poetry Prize, given by the South Carolina Poetry Society, and in 2010 and 2011, she had multiple poems place in contests sponsored by the Poetry Council of North Carolina. She has published poetry in such venues as Pembroke Magazine, Cincinnati Review, Comstock Review, Emyrs Journal, and she is among the writers included in the North Carolina volume of The Southern Poetry Anthology. She was a featured poet in the April 2013 edition of The Dead Mule School of Southern Literature and a James Applewhite Poetry finalist in 2014 (the poem, “Women’s History Month,” appears in NCLR 2015). She is also a fiction writer and translator.

North Carolina Literary Review Online 2017  

North Carolina Literary Review is published annually by East Carolina University with additional funding from the North Carolina Literary an...

North Carolina Literary Review Online 2017  

North Carolina Literary Review is published annually by East Carolina University with additional funding from the North Carolina Literary an...

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