While idly surfing the web, I came across this poem by Nancy K. Pearson, entitled, To the High School Prom Queen. When I read how the narrator addresses a former prom queen who is now behind bars, I knew I had to read the entire collection.
Pearson’s first book of poetry, Two Minutes of Light, was published by Perugia Press, a company that publishes only one book a year, a first or second collection by a female poet. Those are some slim odds, that one’s book would be picked up by Perugia, which is another reason I decided to order Pearson’s book. I figured she would have to be an excellent poet, if a company would put their whole year’s productivity into the publication of just one book, and had chosen hers.
Pearson explores some tough topics: self-mutilation, drug addiction, accidental death, suicide, and sexual abuse. But she explores the evolution of a person who emerges from pain and darkness, and who is able to bank on the beauty and love she finds in the world. The narrator pulls herself out of hell.
The poems seem to be written in a minor key. The words are simple, punched up with an occasional reference to the South, or to a name-brand regional store. The narrator pays attention to the natural world, which is observed because of, in spite of, or after suffering. If ever there was a book to inspire people to hang on, to embrace life rather than succumbing to despair, Two Minutes of Light is it. But Pearson conveys this message through the narrator’s slow climb out of hell, not by preaching or extolling any particular set of beliefs.
In an interview with Melora B. North from the Provincetown Banner, Pearson says that although the poems in Two Minutes of Light, ” are not autobiographical, they obviously mirror her life in many ways and are based on her not always pleasant observations and experiences.”
Again we have a poet who needs to make a disclaimer about her seemingly confessional poems. I understand Pearson’s need to clarify herself, given the assumptions many people make about poetry. Even if she uses the first person, the poet is reconstructing a past that no longer exists. A poet tries to remain faithful to the feelings, and uses whatever devices are available to her to recreate, to share, to allow the reader a glimpse of a different reality.
Pearson successfully creates a character who survives, and even goes on to thrive, because she feels an attraction to the raw beauty of the world, to the pleasures of living.