March 12, 2011

InScribers Review: Neruda's Memoirs - Review by Violet Nesdoly

I have, in the last few weeks, stumbled across another community of poets. I found them through paying attention to a blog network (The High on which, some months ago, I listed a devotional blog I write.

Last week on the blog of L. L. Barkat ('s editor and an accomplished poet in her own right) I saw the book trailer of Neruda's Memoirs. It was irresistible bait for a debut collection of poems by Maureen Doallas (whose name I had started noticing in comments on various HC blogs).

I bought the book — in a Kindle version.

The book is divided into four sections: Enter, Listen, Exit and Remember. Doallas introduces each section with a short essay. Here's a little of what she says to preface the "Listen" poems:

"I could acknowledge that I was a writer. I made my living by my writing and my editorial skills. I relinquished the notion that I could be a poet.

Until one late November afternoon in 2007, when my brother, just two years older than I, called to tell me he had cancer and was given a timeline of weeks. I was a thousand miles away. I wanted to make matter what I wanted to say, and I wanted to hear what he had never said before" - Kindle Location 598.

And so she began writing — and it came out in poetry. As she puts it:

"...poem after poem I shared with an online cancer support group...Sharing the words that illuminated my experience became the group's experience too. The words came to be more than good enough. I learned how my voice could speak for more than me alone..." - KL 605

I understand the connection between death and needing to write. I experienced that in 2006 when, within a matter of three months, both my mother-in-law and my mom died.

The brother thing resonated too. Just this July we were told my brother with cancer had weeks to live. He proved the doctors wrong, for he had months. But his January 25, 2011 death still feels raw.

And so it is not surprising that Doallas's poems like "Nothing is Ever the Same" speak for me. They feel like my own words:

"...Nothing is ever the same
or could be the same

After you left

After you left
dust on your collections
hats, books, scraps,
of half-thought dreams unbound —

Piled on

As time piled on
to keep me busy unforgetting

The nothing that is never the same
when your name no longer gets called."
(KL: 1625)

Let me close with some more lines from the book that strike a chord:

"Neruda said the closest thing to poetry
is a loaf of bread
or a ceramic dish
or a piece of wood lovingly carved."
(KL: 1489)
© 2011 by Violet Nesdoly

This post was first published on February 18, 2011 at Line Upon Line.


  1. I'm just finishing up a poetry unit with some Grade 7 and 8 students. I always find that poetry is one thing that really makes a connection - even with those kids that don't normally like to read or analyze literature. There is just something about poetry that is so PURE yet elegant; BARE yet packed with meaning.

  2. Interesting, Tracy, that your students enjoy poetry. Maybe it also has something to do with the way you teach it.


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