Relative Sanity by Ellen Lord
I’m the last person who should be allowed to review poems. Many poems simply go over my head at the altitude of a jetliner. I don’t even understand some of the glowing remarks by the authors on the back of this book. But if a Supreme Court Justice can fail to recuse him- or herself from a case who am I to recuse myself from poetry?
Then I discovered the first three words of the first poem hiding behind the front cover describe both succinctly and accurately my desperation whenever I sit down to write this blog. They are, “Searching for words.” Yup, she got me with the first three words in the book. “Relative Sanity” the next poem is, I think, a stream of conscious narrative about the poet’s mother’s temporarily successful escape from the Newberry State Hospital. It is an entire book reduced to one marvelous page. The Therapist’s Dilemma maybe my favorite simply because it is so unexpectedly funny. As a reader and an envious writer I love to run across sentences and phrases that are perfect, or clever, or profound, or simply tickle me like, “I worry about mental decline, like that helps… .” That one is going to be stuck on wall above my desk. And here is one out of many perfect sentences found throughout a mere 44 pages. “He tells me the cancer is back, creeping through him like Kudzu.”
Lord’s poems are all quite personal, and her work abounds with the wonder she experiences in the Upper Peninsula. She can write of a simple trout stream or in her last poem entitled “North Country Elegy” she tells of how much she loves U.P’s. “raw winter nights’ and in the face of all the evidence wonders how “she learned to be alone.” Unquestionably Relative Sanity is the launching pad for a very promising talent.