I received a copy of this book from the author.
Beth Gordon’s work is always a masterclass in poetic language. In This Small Machine of Prayer, her first full length collection, we get to see her full range in all its glory.
Each section of the book begins with an elegy that sets the tone; there is no doubt that this is a collection of thoughtful, serious poetry. Gordon’s particular gift is to find the perfect, minute details in the familiar and draw them out, shimmering:
I’ve seen faces in trees from the day I was
born. Prayer cards & extension cords in the
back of the closet, single earrings blanketed
In writing this way, Beth utilises the transformative power of poetry and reflects on life’s pains and traumas in ways that make them feel lighter, somehow, despite their difficulty. This balances with a bittersweet sense of yearning that feels particularly resonant in these times:
The sunlight was a
song on our tongues & we were not sober
for six honeyed weeks. When are you
coming back my friend? Hurry. We are all
dropping like flies.
The central section of the book, from which it derives its name, is a brief segue into a specific form and focus. The titles in these pieces are all derived from airline safety briefings. The poems themselves, however, launch themselves from these familiar phrases into stunning moments of introspection and observation. These are truly poems of luminosity.
While this book explores griefs and losses, there are also moments of intense beauty. Gordon delicately stitches her words into tapestries that not only highlight the precise moments of sadness, but also the sparks of joy. There’s a lovely balance reflective of the light and dark shades of everyday life.
It’s not just the language in her sensuous, detailed poems that will pull you in. Beth’s work with enjambment and line length means these poems grab you by the hand and pull you forward, even when you want to stay in that moment; it’s a delicious tension.
This reviewer has long admired Beth Gordon’s poetry. To be able to traverse this poet’s extensive range in one volume is a treasure. If your work could benefit from reading poetry with a focus on language, description and detail, this is definitely a book to add to your reading list; if not, read it anyway for the sheer pleasure of it.
This Small Machine of Prayer is available now from Kelsay Books.