Witness and Resist

Witness and Resist

By Bert Almon

A review of Witness And Resist by Marilyn Lerch

Published on April 1, 2009

Witness And Resist
Marilyn Lerch

Morgaine House
$17
paper
124pp
978-0-9732787-6-7

Marilyn Lerch’s second book is equally committed to public issues (she has been a political activist for left-wing causes since the 1960s) and explorations of her own life. Sometimes, as in the long poem written as a dialogue with passages from Adrienne Rich’s Usonian Journals 2000, she brings the public and personal together. She gives the impression of a lyric poet working against her own capabilities, sometimes creating rhetoric rather than poetry. “A Poet’s Loose-Leaf Notebook,” a long work juxtaposing her own life with Paul Celan’s, seems misguided, a bit presumptuous. When she excoriates her native country, the United States, for redneck attitudes or developing the bomb, some readers may give intellectual assent while feeling that the poems smack of editorials. The nine-page work about her relationship with her father might have been condensed into two pages; the elegy is somehow not as moving as her poem about Tarragon, a pet llama in New Mexico that was killed by a cougar. Her nature poems are excellent: a fine opening poem about a sunflower celebrates its solitary being in brilliant details and ends with a risky image of bees crawling across its oiled eye. Another short poem, “Homeless,” is an unforgettable depiction of the fate of the drones barred from the beehive; it is left to the reader to draw the piercing parallel with the lives of homeless humans. This is an anthology-grade poem. Equally indelible is the brief prose poem, “Navidad,” describing an epiphany in Mexico City at Christmas: the poet sees a child of seven or so pushing a legless woman on a wooden platform along the way to the Shrine of the Virgin of Guadeloupe. The sight is imprinted in the poet’s mind: “it was their eyes intent on some image beyond that brought the heavy, handset press down on my yielding heart, imprinting this new and fearful, this possible love.” The poem stamps the same image on the reader’s mind. mRb

Bert Almon lives in Edmonton, Alberta. Retired from teaching, he follows the careers of his former students.

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