Prologue by Jeanie Tomasko. Concrete Wold Poetry Chapbook Series, 2015.
Reviewed by Tori Grant Welhouse
There’s something tidal about Jeanie Tomasko’s chapbook (Prologue). It contains an element raw and forceful, comprehensive as water. Archetypal, too, like the surf. In and out. Rhythmic and crashing. Its revelations are like buffeting waves of meaning. Surprise is part of the book’s appeal, so I will try to provide hints while not giving too much away.
The title of the chapbook is (Prologue), the story before the story, the story of the story. In fact, the story that frames a life. (The parentheses, it turns out, are a conscious act.) The book looks like a manual with headings, subheadings and evocative sketches between key sections. Words themselves are broken down, identified. Grammar, too, especially parts of speech. Then, there is this idea of narrative. What came first? The story? Or the story of the story?
The centerpiece of the book is childhood memory, idyllic summers on the coast of Maine, a special friend who is homesick. The book is a love story for the friend. But just as important – if not more important – the book is about the act of memory because its true charm is how it attempts to capture the mysterious cerebral and not-cerebral function of remembering. Partly sensation. Partly synapses. But mostly pure mystical connection.
Summer is a noun, but also an illusion. On any other day, you recall a particular one, and what comes to you is a handful of blueberries.
The narrator is remembering her friend and the nature of herself through the veil of summer and temporary accommodation by the ocean.
I remember thinking that somewhere in a Maine spider is a bricken stillness. I know now that somewhere in my body there’s a place like that too, a pool of brackish water that remembers things the rest of me has forgotten. Stories that can translate the difficult world of the body. Stories that can tell me who I am. Stories that can get me to the coast apple rain of the deal.
The friends tell each other stories, mythologizing their comings and goings, their closeness. The stories are parsed, images recurring in a variety of guises, words defined, played out in their multitudinous uses.
You can stand on the edge of something and call it secret and lovely. You can fall off, or not. You can jump off and be lost forever. The edge of the sea keeps changing.
(Prologue) is a mesmerizing chapbook. In the end it’s a love story to language itself.