After the Fall

If No Moon is a book of poems by Moira Linehan, published as part of the Crab Orchard Review series in 2006. I read one of her poems online, I can’t remember where, and liked it enough to seek out more, and then to buy the book. I’ve read it through a few times now, and each time I find myself alternately moved and annoyed: moved by the way she treats the subject of caring for her husband as he dies, and annoyed by the way the rest of the poems in the collection make the same kinds of stylistic maneuvers but fail to move me. I feel a bit morbid, and not at all like blaming the poet for failing to push the poems about Ireland or poetics into the same melding of form and function that the dieing spouse poems do, but that’s what happens with this book. Perhaps having the more emotionally immediate poems at the start creates an appetite in the reader the rest of the work cannot satisfy. All the poems are very carefully crafted; some, in the manner of far too much modern poetry, is crafted to the point of sedation, all vigor machined away, as poets are taught to do in workshops: “Shadows and shivers, like spurts of chimney swifts sweeping / through, down, over what you hold dear.” I hear Mona Van Duyn throughout If No Moon, perhaps a bit of Mary Oliver,and while Linehan has yet to see her way though to a voice as distinctive, she does point the way toward such distinctiveness in poems like “What He Did For Me,” “Just Name It,” and especially, “Against Asking,” which turns a stuttering syntax into a bright, aching throb:

He said to me Don’t ask me
to talk but what did that
mean what did I know
now that he was he was
he don’t ask me
how I thought of it but I said
Let’s pray to our mothers
didn’t he have to talk to someone
didn’t he didn’t I if I if
I knelt on the floor
I could get closer close to
him in that bed when you pray with
the man who’s gotten inside you

This is the kind of craft I can get behind, careful but raw, verging on loss of control, creating an unexpected rhythm that excites rather than lulls… there is enough poetry about today that tries to lull, entice, make pretty noises that excuse themselves. I hope Linehan follows the jagged path, rather than the one marked with scented candles.

CDs I’ve listened to lately, as I try to listen to all the CDs I own, in a row: 601) Hüsker Dü: Zen Arcade; 602) The Music of Kentucky: Vol 2; 603) Girls Against Boys: Freakonica; 604) The Kings Of Swing: Kings of Swing; 605) Chuck Berry: Chuck Berry’s Golden Hits; 606) Johnny Cash: The Gospel Collection; 607) Cowboy Junkies: The Trinity Sessions; 608) Gomez: In Our Gun; 609) Lee “Scratch” Perry: Soundz From the Hot Line; 610) Petracovitch: We Are Wyoming; 611) Radiohead: Pablo Honey; 612) Schoolhouse Rock: The Best Of; 613) Soundgarden: Badmotorfinger; 614) Emmylou Harris: Songbird; 615) The Verve: Urban Hymns; 616) Suede: Nude; 617) kd lang: Watershed; 618) Gregory Isaacs: I.O.U.; 619) Kenny Burrell: Midnight Blue; 620) Henryk Gorecki: String Quartets 1 and 2; 621) Iran: Persian Classical Music; 622) Moby: Play.