Friday, April 01, 2011

The Needle by Jennifer Grotz

Admittedly, I love poetry, but the first thing that attracted me to Jennifer Grotz's latest collection, The Needle, was the strange and odd imagery on the cover but I was lucky it did because the contents were equally unique in a beautiful way. Grotz's skill lies in the tiny details and moments she captures. In the title poem, "The Needle" she stitches together various memories, describing a bee feeding thoughtfully from a sugar bowl and "the glint of blond down/on his knuckle as he/ crushed a spent cigarette". Universal across the collection is this attention to the minute, the vivid details. In "Landscape with Town Square" she writes:
And afterward, the wet and gleaming square seems slowly rubbed dry
By the bolt of blue-gray velvet the sky unspools above.
And each word feels perfect and intense, I fell in love with the image of the bolt of velvet being unspooled by the sky, imagery which connects, intentionally or not, quite well with the title of the collection. In the poem "Late Summer" Grotz describes with perfect imagery how beside a man "blooms a large gray rose of pigeons / huddled around a dropped piece of bread." and the reader and see the shape of those birds as they spread and grow like a flower.

Grotz captures both the internal and the external with equal ease, apparently having lived in Poland much of her collection is inspired by Kraków with the city itself becoming its own character in the story she is telling. The square which she mentions in "Landscape with Town Square" is Kraków Town Square. In "Alchemy" she discusses the transformations that can take place in the city, such as "When a pebble becomes a bright coin on the sidewalk", ultimately ending with the memorable lines:
One's fate in this city is to come and become and be overcome.
In each of us a mad rabbit thrashes and a wolf pack howls. 
Just as Grotz's poetry overcomes the reader, taking them into her bright world. On the tram in "The Nunnery" where she sits next to a nun "wearing a Members Only jacket". Later, Grotz takes the reader back to Town Square, in "Boy Playing Violin" where a young boy plays his instrument on the corner, awful noises coming from his violin, his bowl empty as he competes with a puppeteer. Grotz once again brings the Town Square to life, but this times it is the busy noise:
a city square populated by potbellied men 
with cameras strapped around their neck,
their well-appointment wives accessorized with gobules of amber,
and by lovers holding hands, oblivious,
and by waddling pigeons chased endlessly
At other times, Grotz just as expertly looks inwards, such as in "The Window at Night" where she describes her body, saying "My face is not a democracy- the eyes are tyrants / and the ears are radical dissenters." and capturing the inequality of disproportion so many people obsess over when they look in the mirror and all the various emotions found in the subtleties of expression, eyebrows whisper and "anger hides in the jaw", bringing each aspect of the face to life.  

Grotz also deals with the deeply personal subject of her brother's death in poems such as "Silence" and "The Eldest", where she begins "After my brother died, I stared out the window", both of which are heartbreaking in their simplicity and clear portrayal of loss and the feeling of being left behind. In many instances it feels as if the reader has been let in on a private moment, on a conversation Grotz is having with herself such as in "The Mountain" where she discussed what it means to be Jennifer, "that to be a Jennifer meant to chase endlessly after desire / or else to try to live without it."
The beauty Grotz captures in The Needle is ethereal, and at times it seems she is writing of another world, such as in "The Ocracoke Ponies" where you can just feel the sunlight and the twitch of the ponies' manes, soaking it up even as she reminds you:
That's not dream, it's not even sleeping.
It is the nature of sleeping to be unaware.
This was some kind of waiting for the world to come back. 
Or in "Sunrise in Cassis", where Grotz writes:
This is the hour when the moon is a fishhook
steadily pulled up out of the liquid sky
into some drier realm.
Lines which just ooze imagery of the kind that makes the book such an incredible collection, full of the beautiful and unique. Ultimately, The Needle not only captures the feeling of a city but also the feelings of a person inside it; with composed expertise and attention to the tiny details Grotz lets the reader into a vivid and incredible place- her mind.

Release Date: March 24th, 2011
Pages: 80
: Netgalley
Buy the Book

1 comment:

  1. Great review -- like you, the cover immediately grabbed me and your thoughtful comments on the poems (plus the excerpts) has me curious. I like poetry but definitely choose novels over it -- BUT I think I need to put this on my TBR for this year. I loved what bits you shared -- such lovely imagery.


Your comments make my day!