Surprising Details- “The Garden Room” by Joy Katz

I’ve had a theory for quite a while now that one’s home reflects the living done there. As a Christian, I believe that our actions and lives have spiritual effects beyond just ourselves. And I think it’s reflected in the spaces we spend the majority of our free time.
I think if we paid close-enough attention, we could feel peace, strife, love, boredom in the homes of people with whom we spend time.

Perhaps this is a bit too metaphysical for a Saturday afternoon, but I couldn’t help but think of this as I read Joy Katz’s chapbook, The Garden Room this morning.

The book is a series of 29 poems and one introductory poem that all have to do with interpretations of physical objects within a house. Poems include “Color of the sheets.”, “A desk.”, “A ceiling.”, and “The Unmade bed.”

Rich with metaphor and personification, these poems inspire me as a writer to view ordinary objects through a creative/unusual eye and revise…revise…revise until the language is absolute perfection.

One of my favorite poems is “Color of the walls.” and I love the imaginative personification that colors the last couple of stanzas. Here’s my favorite section:

“the teapot must remain serious, the table may not approach.
Archaic torso turns away into the corner.
The rugs occupy themselves with the story of their making,
Chairs, in quorum, decide upon the nearness of
important things,
like capital punishment. Good chairs.”

As one of the more whimsical portions of the chapbook, I love these lines ability to build a sort of rapport between the reader and the house, so then later on we can hear what the house has to teach us in poems like “The Made Bed.” that immediately follows:

“It makes us believe we are clean, too.
It breathes slowly, evenly, like Gandhi.
If this is true, then what kind of mind must I have?
Surely not disordered.”

I walk away from this chapbook amazed at the power of language to transform the way someone views ordinary common things by stepping away from the crutches of common metaphor and belief. That is something I would love to adopt as a skill into my own writing.

I strongly urge you to pick up a copy of this lovely book. It’s delightfully unpredictable, and its figurative language gets underneath your skin.

To peruse her lovely website, visit joykatz.com.

I also encourage you to spend some time thinking about how your life is influencing your context, positively and negatively. A little self-reflection never hurt a writer.

Keep pushing yourself to write surprisingly and thoughtfully about the often overlooked. It may lead to some incredible work.

May your words come smooth and Writer’s Block stay far away,
Abigail Joy

The Magic’s in the Metaphors: Learning from Lisa M. Cole’s Negotiating with Objects

“Well, there it is again: that damn penny moon;
that dirty crystal ball; a pearl; a child’s flimsy kite
staggering drunk behind me.”

Herein lies none of those overly romantic images of the moon that seem to be ridiculously pervasive in modern poetry.
No Nicholas Sparks references to the moon’s ability to look over all of us as we fall in love over and over.
No rhyming “moon” and “June,” no tacky or tired comparisons.
No, here we sense a sort of tired disgust with the moon’s presence,
a complicated emotion that drew me in when I read it.
And it’s accomplished solely with surprising turns of metaphor.

This is the genius of Lisa M. Cole, author of Negotiating with Objects and five other chapbooks, as well as two full collections of poetry.

As I read this chapbook this weekend, I found myself continually intrigued by the way she utilizes language. This chapbook is formatted as a collective whole by how the poem’s are titled–each one taking the form: “After _______.” (The poem that I quoted is from her poem “After Asking.”)

I get this sense after reading her chapbook that she is using language to deeply explore issues and instances that can be very complicated and surreal, but she is seeking to understand and express those things with metaphor that can give the reader a sense of concrete imagery to hold onto.

One such issue she explores is this: amputation. She explores the implications of medical and biological loss in her poems “After Amputation” and “After Seeing.”

The line that I thought was most powerful in these poems was in “After Seeing,” where the speaker expresses
“Again, I am half-phantom-ing–
my stuttering foot in a paperweight shoe.”
The personification of the foot, the metaphor of the shoe as a paperweight holding down a phantom limb…these intriguing metaphors express a difficult-to-explain sensation while giving the reader a concrete thought to hold onto about it.

I see this seeking, this exploration especially in her form. She writes short stanzas, and most of her poems utilize Roman numerals to separate them into sections. I think this gives her the opportunity to explore each poem’s theme in greater depth and shows that wants to explore for many different angles.

I think metaphor is the most important feature of her writing that I would like to glean for my own writing.
I would love to be able to craft turns of phrase even partially as well-written as hers.

However, that’s just me, and there’s far more to know and glean.

Give her chapbook a read if you’d like at http://www.sundresspublications.com/negotiatingwithobjects.pdf

and keep reading, friends. There’s much to learn.

Abigail Joy