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Page 144

2020

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

COURTESY OF THE ARTIST

144

THE MEMORY OF WATER: SEARCHING FOR FAITH, FAMILY, AND FAMILIAR PLACES a review by Cameron Bynum Michael Chitwood. Search & Rescue. Louisiana State University Press, 2018. Al Maginnes. The Next Place. Iris Press, 2017.

CAMERON BYNUM is a graduate of UNC Chapel Hill where they majored in Communication Studies with a minor in creative writing and served as Poetry Editor of Cellar Door, the official undergraduate campus literary magazine and received the Phillips Travel Scholarship, which was used to research differences between spoken word poetry in the US and Europe. They currently work as a Development Coordinator at Common Cause North Carolina.

ABOVE At Peace, 2007, from the Immersion series, by Marjorie Pierson (See more of the artist’s work from this series in NCLR 2018, and read about her on her website.)

I’ve lost someone in a lake before. We weren’t close. I was young, and he was just a friend of the family. More than anything I remember being confused by how someone could go from being alive and present to missing, gone without even a body to mourn. The suddenness of such a loss renders it surreal, like the bloodless ways people die in children’s movies. Drowning can simultaneously refer to a particular drowning and be a metaphor for the author’s past alcoholism which can be shown in how the middle of the poem turns from talking about drowned men to talking about a preacher and his faith. Still there is a purpose to the search: the small peace of mind finding the victim may provide the mourners. Two recent collections of poetry, Search & Rescue by Michael Chitwood and The Next Place by Al Maginnes, employ water as a central element: both include poems about drowning and about lakes that swallow memories. These two poets confront the ghosts of their past and the hidden parts of themselves with duty and dedication. Just as there is much beneath water’s surface, these poets delve into the mysticism of memory to pull out moments of tenderness.

Michael Chitwood’s Search & Rescue explores boyhood, a town, and the relationships therein with the scrutiny and inquisitiveness of a search party. The poet’s style throughout the book is set within the initial poem featuring a boy with his first hatchet, prying into the various objects in his yard. The boy opens up sumac to discover “a center soft like putty” (3). He tries his newfound sharpness on a baseball only to hit dirt. The poem asks what “the blunt side of the head / would do to the concrete floor of the garage,” and then replies with “a pleasant thock.” Through his violent acts, he’s opening things, not so much to understand them, but to simply witness the inner workings as they are and relish the simple experience of seeing. Unconcerned about mechanisms or systems, Chitwood splits right through to the core of his subjects, and, through his acts of poetic incision, he provides a decidedly more visceral view of rural life. Chitwood uses this idea of prying to underpin the title poem, which is an extended meditation on a search and rescue team as well as the act of searching itself. The speaker watches the team plumb the newly made lake for

Profile for East Carolina University

North Carolina Literary Review Online 2020  

A literary review published online annually by East Carolina University and by the North Carolina Literary and Historical Association.

North Carolina Literary Review Online 2020  

A literary review published online annually by East Carolina University and by the North Carolina Literary and Historical Association.

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