The Water Poems by The Grand Avenue Poetry Collective. Water’s Edge Press, 2017.
Reviewed by Tori Grant Welhouse
The Water Poems is an intimate anthology of poems written by six poets forming The Grand Avenue Poetry Collective Sylvia Cavanaugh, Nancy Harrison Durdin, Dawn Hogue, Maryann Hurtt, Georgia Ressmeyer and Marilyn Zelke Windau. The anthology is fittingly published by Water’s Edge Press.
Divided into four sections it’s very clear that water in its many guises is personal, a feeling metaphor for interpreting the near and far world. It’s also clear that the poets are a “collective” in the best sense. The poems written by these six poets belong to each other, relate to each other and are responsible to each other. The poems encompass water in its many forms. River and lake and shore and tide. Water also evokes emotions and memories, life sustained and life washed briskly clean.
Each section begins with a thought-provoking subtitle. Section One reads: “Water flows onward. / Leaves are boats under blue skies. / Herons nest in shade.” The poems in this section are perhaps the most contemplative. Water as life, as flow, as other, underpinning daily existence. From Dawn Hogue’s “I Get Up”: “but now I sit for a moment by / the cool stillness, a cloud casting a / shady canopy over this river, / which, at all seasons / has its own will.”
From Maryann Hurtt’s “Homecoming”: “may we be river smooth stones / in snow cold water / waiting for the return / of our salmon brothers and sisters”
In Section Two the poems feel familial, the easy, carefree life of beach houses, childhood reminiscing, the burgeoning awareness of life beyond the self. From Sylvia Cavanaugh’s “Beach Glass”: “adrift in the pungent inhale / the swirl and the swell”
From Nancy Harrison Durban’s “Water Looking Up”: “water making a gentle stew of things, / things with primordial echoes”
From Georgia Ressmeyer’s “Midsummers, 1961”: “let the / sky show me how large / the world is, let the sea / hum with the sound of all / creatures breathing as one.”
If the poems in Section Two are serene and poignant, the poems in Section Three are stormy and wave-tossed, full of the range and rage of life and love and loss. From Nancy Harrison Durdin’s “I Need a Storm”: “I need a storm / that meets my rage / head-on! / I need / to fight for my life / and win.“
Finally, in Section Four the poems ripple into their elemental parts. We can understand why the play of light on water so inspired artists of all kinds, but especially the Impressionists, and it seems as if there is a new kind of water-steeped vernacular occurring in the anthology. From Sylvia Cavanaugh’s “I Dream in Water”: “they say my eyes are like water / that a mirror / or sometimes glass / resembles a / deepened pool / just wishful reflections / projections of desire”
From Marilyn Zelke Windau’s “River in the Sea”: “Salt murmurs the water, / quieting icemaker desires. / Glitter funnels toward me, / spews shine, / sparkle dust.”
Indeed The Water Poems murmur and glitter, spewing shine and sparkle and salt. Each poet has a unique and compelling voice, yet they chorus together like “salmon sisters,” adjuring appreciation and awareness of water’s tidepool lessons. From Maryann Hurtt’s “How Nancy Drew Learned to Fish”: “if you learn stillness / the mucky pond / shares fish secrets”
The soul of our Great Lakes are in these poems, our rivers and lakes, our trickling streams. I highly recommend The Water Poems to any reader who has ever felt water’s affinity.