In her classic book, Writing down the Bones (Shambala, 1986), Natalie Goldberg talks about “first thoughts,” those fleeting images, feelings, and ideas that cross one’s mind before the censor of the super ego swoops in and cleans things up for polite society. Those first thoughts form the primordial soup of authentic writing, and are the gold nuggets most gritty writers dive deep to find.
A poet who has accomplished the deep diving is Louisa Adjoa Parker. Jo Hemmant (poet, editor and author of florescence) recently introduced me to Adjoa Parker’s poems, and from there I ordered her collection, entitled Salt-sweat & Tears, 2007, Cinnamon Press.
Adjoa Parker gets right to the point in her poems. She doesn’t rely on artifice to lead the reader on a symbolic goose chase, but rather opens her palm and lets us read the lines, without hiding or cowering.
The themes are not always comfortable – childhood neglect, racism, marginalization, domestic violence, teenage pregnancy, death, abandonment, all held up for the reader in direct, beautiful language.
Joseph Campbell, in The Hero with a Thousand Faces, speaks of descriptions and paintings of monsters as sublime. We can’t call them beautiful, but they are larger than life, and when we envision them, we are in awe. That’s the effect Adjoa Parker’s poems have on me. She delves into the marrow of life, draws out the painful parts, but does so with poignant metaphors, in just a few lines.
In fact, it’s the brevity of many of her poems that strikes the reader immediately. Like dreams, good movies, or intriguing novels, Adjoa Parker begins her poems in medias res, by going straight to the bulls eye of the moment.
Salt-sweat & Tears chronicles a hard childhood and a rocky young adulthood, but the reader is left with hope at the end, as the narrator speaks of self-acceptance, of a connection to the beauty of nature, and the pleasure of simply walking the earth.