I do love “New and Selected” poetry collections, and so it was with delight that I opened The Fabric of Day: New and Selected Poems by Regina’s Anne Campbell, who has been making poetry and sharing it with appreciative readers since her first book, No Memory of a Move, was released in 1983. In a retrospective such as this readers can track a poet’s evolution, and I was interested to read the new work: what’s in Campbell’s poetic gaze now?
In the book’s introduction Campbell explains that the prairies and “time” have been her major concentrations across the decades. In the newest poems I see that the trials of aging – the poet was born in 1938 – are also receiving attention on the page, and always, there is the undertone of love that’s missed, or love that might have been.
In the poem “Retiring, Gone Missing,” she writes “It’s a puzzle at this late stage, a nuisance,/really, feeling the self, one used to be/ gone” and later in this poem, “it’s odd/being with the stranger I am/ becoming”. Certainly aging is a hard business, but juxtaposed against poems with titles including “Anxiety,” “Ennui” and “The Dark Side, Redux,” we see the poet celebrating life’s lighter moments. One piece begins with the great line “I’m considering getting to know Walter Matthau,” and in another, Campbell recounts visiting her mother’s seniors’ complex and, noting the resident women doing jigsaw puzzles, the poet says to her sister: “‘Shoot me if you see me doing that.'” Then, after a minor surgery, she finds herself doing a jigsaw puzzle.
From her first book we’ve seen Campbell control her poems’ tempo via indentations, white space, one or two-line stanzas, and, often, one-word lines, and this has been a stylistic constant for her, though she also includes occasional prose poems, including “The Beginning,” which starts with this lovely line: “I picked up a stone that day walking in the hills, it wasn’t the first.” This ability to slow the reader and give certain words or phrases extra attention complements the “zen” feeling of much of her work. The meditative quality is particularly apparent in short poems like “More Slowly Evolved,” which begins with the image of the poet at her kitchen window, viewing birds “ferret for the tiniest seeds” to “find whatever’s fallen”. I also appreciate how Campbell writes about everyday subjects, like “reheated bacon on thin crisp toast,” or tacking shelf-paper in a Lazy Susan.
I enjoyed these quiet, introspective poems, perhaps because, like me, Campbell lives in perpetual awe “at the mystery in which we find ourselves”. Yes, it’s all about the awe, whether it’s the memory of pine scents, amber around one’s neck, valley hills, “green and shining grasses,” deer like ballerinas, philosophy, or the work of angels and artists. Time “gentles down” for all of us, but few have the talent or courage to effectively document how that feels in the heart. Campbell succinctly and eloquently delivers “the fabric” of these days.
THIS BOOK IS AVAILABLE AT YOUR LOCAL BOOKSTORE OR FROM WWW.SKBOOKS.COM