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Asperity Street Paperback – Import, 31 Aug 2015
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About the Author
Gail White has published three previous books of poetry; The Price of Everything (Edward Mellen Press, 2002), Easy Marks (WordTech Communications, 2008) and The Accidental Cynic (Prospero World's Press, 2009) and several chapbooks, the latest being Sonnets in a Hostile World. She has edited three anthologies, including coediting The Muse Strikes Back: A Poetic Response by Women to Men (Story Line Press, 1997). Gail is widely published and her poetry has appeared in such journals as Measure, Raintown Review, First Things, and Mezzo Cammin, and in anthologies such as Villanelles and Killer Verse, both from Pocket Poets. Gail received the Howard Nemerov Sonnet Award for 2012 and 2013. She lives with her husband and three cats in Breaux Bridge, Louisiana.
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Most helpful customer reviews on Amazon.com
My only problem with them relates to the occasional expression of a religious sentiment. If religion is expressed with the modern power of Gerard Manley Hopkins or Francis Thompson, I have no problem with it. But where it feels merely pious (even if pious with a witty twist), I find it anachronistic in the 21st century, whether it is White's Catholicism or Islam and other religions out there.
However in the fourth section, "Leaving", we keep the polish and wit while moving into the time of chemo, dementia, losing a life companion to old age... This section is far more profound, unflinching, as it considers life in sickness or supporting someone else in sickness, as a widow or as a widower, lives ending with regrets or with acceptance.
Religion comes in here too, but in a way that is not about a particular belief, but about universal experiences. In "Anecdotal Evidence" she ends with "Yet when my mother died, my father said / that just before the chill that would not thaw, / her face lit up with joy at what she saw." I suspect that anyone who lives long enough will experience some event that provides powerful personal evidence of something beyond our normal understanding. This is a well-argued poem to support that concept.
In "How I Spend My Time Since You Died", she writes "Tuesdays, I brood about / the existence of God and the soul. / If I didn't limit this to one day, / it could take over the entire week." (OK, so that's not really formal verse...) But that is the extent of the religion in the poem.
And the last poem in the book, "At the Burial of an Abbess", deals with the dying not just of an individual in the winter, but of an entire religious Order: "We age and die, we fill our space / and no one younger takes our place. (...) The work of all our lifetime lets / us look on death with no regrets: / we vanish as the snow forgets."
It is an extremely satisfying collection, and delightful in growing in depth and maturity as you read through it.