Today's book of poems: All That Desire, New and Selected Poems, Betsy Struthers, Black Moss Press, 2012.
All That Desire, Betsy Struthers new and selected poems is a surprise to me. Not because the poems are well crafted, accessible and almost always in the right emotional pitch, but because Struthers has built up, with very little fanfare, a large body of solid, dependable and deceptively candid work. Unflinchingly honest is another way I would describe Struthers.
I met Betsy Struthers thirty years ago when I lived in Peterborough. I believe we were introduced by the poet Richard Harrison. At the time, Betsy was leaps and bounds ahead of me in her understanding of poetry and certainly how to write it. When you are young, or I should say, when I was younger, there were a lot of things I missed because I didn't know what to look for.
Now, reading this selected by Struthers I see the solid foundation all of her work is anchored to. Struthers is a contemplative poet who measures every word and you sometimes suspect she is being cautious which is exactly when Struthers will reveal some simple truth with a candour that is not out of place but it is surprising.
Betsy Struthers writes wise, warm and witty poetry about her life as a woman, the passage of the girl into womanhood, marriage, honourable motherhood and so on. There are no experiments in these poems and that is fine, instead Struthers tracks a strong narrative line as she shares with us the life of a normal, strong, typical intelligent woman. There aren't many surprises unless the novelty of the honest voice is new to you.
These poems are that crystal clear honest woman's voice, unapologetic and with good reason. Struthers has never been given the recognition her work merits. That is in part because she is a woman and they generally get the short end of the stick. The other reason may be that there is no drama (as in hysterics or modernist theatre memes) in Struthers work. This isn't glamore, but real life, wisely considered and poetically as clear as glass.
Today's book of poems: I see my love more clearly from a distance, by Nora Gould (Brick Books, 2012). Gould is a prairie woman in her early 50's. She writes about life on the ranch with her family. This book is stunningly good. What Gould doesn't know isn't worth knowing. These poems work together to form a portrait clearer than a Wyeth painting but with all the texture and emotion intact. Could not recommend a book more highly. For any women reading this who belong to a book club - this IS the book of poetry you should be reading. No sentimentality at all but all the passion, love and emotional depth you hope to find in great literature. Gould, a new discovery for me, has instantly become a poet I greatly admire.