Swallows and Waves

Paula Bohince. Sarabande (Consortium, dist.), $14.95 trade paper (72p) ISBN 978-1-941411-15-5
In her third collection, Bohince (The Children) draws inspiration from artwork done during Japan’s Edo period (1603–1868) to craft poems that deceive through their spare appearance. Each of the poems, none longer than 15 lines, works as both a rendering and an interpretation. The titles of the paintings feel mundane—“Golden Pheasant and Peonies,” “Rabbits and Crows in the Night Snow”—but Bohince’s quiet revelations shed a strange, sometimes painful light on what seems familiar. In “South Wind at Clear Dawn,” she likens an image of “stiff and untouchable” wind blowing through pines to a wife at her husband’s funeral. Though some descriptions feel expected (a “sumptuous kimono,” and an abyss that “whispers”), the ultimate effect of the simplicity is cumulative. The reader is lulled into hypnosis, barely removed from the artwork by the fact of the book. Rarely does one find a collection wherein the speaker seems almost unaware, or at least unconcerned about, the reader’s presence. These poems are intensely private, reflecting the quiet of the image being studied as well as the speaker studying it. Delicacy and agony have the same resonance, as in “Hairdresser,” when she writes “Where to go/ when the mother is gone./ All occupations form to replace her.” Bohince offers a discreet, surprising kind of ekphrasis. (Jan.)
Reviewed on: 01/18/2016
Release date: 01/01/2016
Genre: Fiction
Open Ebook - 72 pages - 978-1-941411-16-2
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