Through This Door

Edited by Margaret Rozga and Angela Trudell Vasquez. Art Night Books, 2020.

Review by Alexandra Caucutt

Editors and authors Margaret Rozga and Angela Trudell Vasquez accumulate pieces from past Wisconsin Poet Laureate contributors as well as emerging poets of Wisconsin into Through This Door, a timeless collection of poems reflecting upon Wisconsin’s past, present, and future. The metaphorical door of “fresh knowledge” to Wisconsin readers is well demonstrated through a vast range of themes exploring social injustice, climate change, COVID-19, and the perspectives of diverse communities that call Wisconsin home. It is interesting to see the unique characteristics of Wisconsin through the eyes of a variety of authors, unified in their love of literature and the complex social interactions found only within the Midwest. While this collection aims at personal and local viewpoints, it still achieves a sense of global perspective, undertaking the harsh realities this country faces beyond the borders of the state. “Outside The Door” by Jan Chronister especially displays the realities of injustices and biases in the Midwest, while still appealing to the issues of injustice beyond state lines. 

Outside The Door

Is one possible origin

of the word foreign. 

Someone strange 

shows up and we

refuse to let them in. 

Doors and what might be beyond them is a recurring theme among this collection. Some poems in the collection like “Outside this Door,” utilize the door in both a physical sense as well as a metaphorical sense to present an intangible thing blocking one individual from another, essentially exploring the idea of a remedy to a divided Wisconsin. Other poems like “Talk to Your Neighbors” by Amy Teutenberg use doors as physical blockades between what we think we know versus what we cannot observe in the people around us. It was impressive and thought-provoking to observe how the common theme of doors could be so diversely utilized among vastly different poems while continuing to maintain a wholesome and nostalgic “Midwestern” feel. 

The collection is also filled with poems presenting simple, quiet moments often forgotten or tarnished by the harsh realities of the world around the authors. “Currency” by Lucy Tyrrell displays the theme of experiences versus opulence in their reflection of unpacking a newly purchased home. 

The exchange rate is as

valuable as you make it, when a 

new sunrise is your life’s bookmark.  

Other poems including “COVID Poem #5” by Portia Cobb and “Summer Sunday’s” by Ed Werstein also display simple memories and reflections in small moments often forgotten. These poems achieve a sense of soft reflection on what is and what was, effortlessly finding meaning in things others might perceive as mundane while keeping their Midwest roots apparent. 

Overall, Through This Door holds a vast range of poems that are intense at times and often simultaneously meditative, uplifting and thought-provoking. It celebrates the notion that no one voice can summarize the struggles, glories, and memories that make up this state, intending for each individual poem to be a piece of Wisconsin’s metaphorical puzzle.

Alexandra Caucutt

Alexandra Caucutt is a junior majoring in biology and minoring in biochemistry and creative writing at Carroll University. She is currently an EMT in Milwaukee. In her free time, she enjoys hiking, reading and spending time with her dog, Snuggles.

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