The Way It Goes: Entering History by Mary Stewart Hammond (W.W. Norton & Co., 2016).

Jacqueline Kolosov
| Reviews

Such emphasis on our country’s relatively short history is much needed in these times, and the choice of James here is perfect, given the ways in which Europe’s older civilizations create a very different view of James’s own America throughout his novels.

The death of Hammond’s brother, via drowning, is the subject of “Anniversary,” a poem that returns to an event of half a century ago. In contrast to her longer poems—and here it’s worth noting that Hammond excels at sustained narrative poems— “Anniversary” (which closes Section II) totals fourteen lines. Another poet might devote much of a book to the events surrounding such a premature death, but not Hammond, who has lived most of her life in this brother’s absence:

    Tonight they were bringing my brother up from the deep,
    nothing so grand as the sea, merely
    a quarry in Georgia, barely
    a mile or two wide…
         …no bigger
    in the scheme of things
    than a soup spoon’s bowl,
    but it held him, it cradled him,
    this place vast as death,
    small as life....

As with “Entering History,” the poem navigates vastness and its opposite, as her brother diminishes to “a speck in the universe.” Nevertheless, in Section V, devoted to Hammond’s elderly parents, he reappears, lodged in the consciousness of his mother, who has carried him all these years, as, implicitly, the entire family has:

    She looks for her dead son, and
    her past, and, hmmm, what? yes,
    that’s it, what she wants
    for her future, up
    where the wall meets
    the ceiling…
    (“The Way It Goes”)

Jacqueline Kolosov‘s poetry and prose have recently appeared in Boulevard, The Southern Review, The Sewanee Review, and Prairie Schooner. Her third poetry collection is Memory of Blue (Salmon, 2014). She coedited Family Resemblance: An Anthology and Exploration of 8 Hybrid Literary Genres which won Foreword’s Gold Medal in Writing (Rose Metal, 2015). She directs the Creative Writing Program at Texas Tech, where she is Professor of English. A native of Chicago, she lives with her family in West Texas.

43 PDF