Review: A Quiet Learning Curve

Aleathia Drehmer and Dan Provost
Poetry
56 pages
5 ¼” x 8 ¼” perfect-bound trade paperback
ISBN 978–1–59948–269–9
First Edition
Main Street Rag Publishing Company
Rank Stranger Press
Mount Olive, North Carolina, USA
Available HERE
$10, plus shipping
Review originally published on 4/4/13


This book is split into two sections, one for Aleathia Drehmer and one for Dan Provost. They don’t have poems written together here; they are just sharing a cover and binding. So let’s tackle Ms. Drehmer first.

Drehmer covers the world of love and loss, domestic life and hardships, the tragedy of divorce in the act of dividing belongings

I fold the laundry
in between loads of dishes
as you make lists in the air
ticking off items collected over the years.
You place them in neat piles,
short and haphazard,
realizing most everything
is mine by default.
[ … ]
You notice the clock given to us
at our wedding and how it stopped
telling proper time and mention
the Swedish Love Knot
that unraveled years ago.
[ … ] (from “Whispers Something about Irony”),

motherhood

[ … ]
The door clicks open and my progeny
eases in to deliver rapid fire cartoon fantasies
about the time she was a cat trainer
living in the circus and didn’t I remember that?
Or was I just too old to imagine it?
(from “Sparking the Fire”),

growing older (yet wiser)

[ … ]
We are the pain
creeping into joints without remorse,
the pulling of muscles flexed
beyond intension, the subtle tightening
a warning to us all.
[ … ] (from “Hollow”),

and a recurring theme of love, loss, departure, and human qualities in relation to science and math

[ … ]
We dance back and forth
until you and I are nothing
more than a closed system
that finds the tiny existence
of our relationship isolated
and unchanged — a perpetual
momentum.
Never falling backward,
never moving forward.
(from “(critical) mass”).

Drehmer writes on reflections of love found and lost, emptiness felt with an elephant’s weight, and the childish laughter that fills otherwise quiet spaces. And she writes of these things with intelligence, refreshing personal openness, and the experience of someone who’s been there.

Dan Provost, meanwhile, is nearly the opposite. He is not quiet and does not reside in his pain or place quietly. Yet, he still speaks of tragedies and isolation with personal experience. He ventures into less-domestic arenas with his blunt discussions of politics, gun ownership/violence, anarchy, war, death

Wrong Charles,
Death,
Man is never ready for …
Simple things might send him to the madhouse,
But you can leave eventually,
[ … ]
Death, there is no turning back …
[ … ] (from “Wrong Charlie”),

even Indian affairs

[ … ]
It only became visible when scholars, who had nothing
else to put on their Minority Literature syllabus,
decided to put
Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee on the
mandatory reading list.
(from “Half-Breeds and Scholars”).

Provost is not as approachable as Drehmer, his words harsher and looser, more violent and free-flowing, jarring, abrupt, abrasive. Where Drehmer’s words quietly reflect on the living, Provost’s unapologetically proclaim the dying. Through it all, there is a need to fit in, to be remembered, to lay rest to the pain, the weariness, the wandering … to be forgiven by the self, as well as by others. His emotions are complex and sporadic, his words are curt, and his tone is unabashedly in-your-face. Oh yeah, and of course, there’s a healthy jolt of that New England that I so distinctly remember:

She told me that “If I didn’t
know you personally, I would
never approach you … you’re very blue
collar and always have a sneer on your face.”
Well, baby, I wear that persona like
a battle scar … never wanting to
wear my poetic side on my sleeve.
[ … ] (from “Blue Collar, White Heat”).