A great poetry collection can do two seemingly different things at once—give us insight into a wide and sometimes rambunctious world through imagery that transports while also providing a voyage into the smallest details, those things that many of us routinely overlook. Karla Linn Merrifield & Friends accomplishes both tasks—and does them superbly.
The writers include Karla Linn Merrifield, Colleen Powderly, Chris Crittenden, M.J. Iuppa, Michael G. Smith, and Eve Anthony Hanninen.
It might seem unlikely that the book would have cohesion with six such varied writers, but that variety creates the energy. The six poets ping off each other, sometimes share similar subjects, but each poet is still able to create an individual voice and style.
Many of the poems either focus on place or place is strongly suggested in each of the poets’ groups of poems. We can go from the Nile to the beach at Hamlin to a “city with no arms” to the Bristol hills to a river of holes and glass and to Oregon. The poets are our guides, and it is a delight to linger at the places they show us, not merely to see them, but, once we enter deeply into the poems, to become a part of those places. We also enter the places inside ourselves that sometimes seem distant or perhaps frightening.
The natural world is a common thread in these works. The poets peel away the shadows so that we can see more clearly the mystery and surprises in our still vital world. Eve Hanninen asks, “Did I just witness a star die/ a billion billionth of a chance?” Michael G. Smith shows us “a hummingbird that wove/ her nursery from/ amber twine.” M.J. Iuppa takes us where “The mud smelled dangerous.” Chris Crittenden introduces us to a monk who is “wind without a crag to howl off.” Colleen Powderly suggests that beauty is “in a smooth granite slab/ added to a wall.” Karla Linn Merrifield has us look where “lonely humans swim island bays to meet the ray of dreams.”
This collection has a quiet power, a wisdom born of contemplation and acute observation. This is not light reading. To fully enjoy the work, I found it helpful to reread the poems, including doing so out loud. Readers will find poems that speak quite particularly to their own experiences and feelings. These poems are like bits of colored glass in the light. Depending on the angle from which we look, we find different prisms, evocative shades and textures.
Karla Linn Merrifield & Friends is now one of those books that I keep close at hand, not stuffed on a shelf. I like to return to it, sometimes pick one of the poets and think about what that writer is focusing on. Other times, I like to pick random poems from each poet, see how new patterns take shape. This is a living collection, a joy and a deep pleasure.
— By Kenneth Pobo, contributor, from his Foreword
This book is out of print, but you may request an MS Word document of the text from the author.