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The Geese at the Gates

Drucilla Wall

ISBN: 978-1-907056-59-8

Page Count: 82

Publication Date: Tuesday, February 01, 2011

Cover Artwork: 'Feathers' by Tonnywu76 | Dreamstime.com


About this Book

DRUCILLA WALL’s debut poetry collection reflects elusive forces of landscape, history, family, and spirit that resist exploration. Her poems are tinged with humor, embued with a wry sense of human short-comings, and awareness of how small gestures and everyday settings reveal moments of luminous spirit, even in the face of loss. Here is the work of a poet whose vision is always open to the unexpected.

Strong, translucent, poignant storytelling: from the lost lands of Creek Indian grandparents to the Irish boys bringing their grandmother fresh milk for a last cup of tea, with vivid love poems and family poems along the way. For heart-wrenching heroes, see the American “Bullet Dog” and the Irish “Burren Wall”; for a supernatural break-in from Ireland see “Columbia, Missouri, War Protest.” Irish and Indian—what a marriage! Carter Revard

The best part of the poems of The Geese at the Gates is the wholeness they convey in stories, with personal history embedded with cultural and social history taking our heart’s breath away. Drucilla Wall's poetry deser ves to be part of the Indigenous road of art that speaks for our land, culture, and community. Simon J. Ortiz

From Texas to the banks of the Mississippi, from Nebraska and Missouri, to Counties Wexford and Galway, Ireland, we are mesmerized by this voice which we salute and welcome. Joan McBreen

It is rare one finds a poet like Drucilla Wall, so perfectly attuned to the life we live now while also keeping so vividly mindful of the lost, invisible cultures steeping just below the surface. In her lucidly straying narratives and finely keyed lyrics, in her generous ear and wry wit, we hear the vital under-song of the disappeared as well as the enduring presences of family, locality, and nation. For Wall memory is a gate, and these poems venture across the borders of contemporary America, Ireland, and Native America while remaining attentive to the past. This is a stirring first collection by a poet who refuses the easy molds of influence, place, and identity. Daniel Tobin


Author Biography

DRUCILLA WALL was raised in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. She received her B.A. from the University of Wisconsin, her M.A. from the University of Nebraska-Omaha, and her Ph.D. in English from the University of Nebraska at Lincoln. She teaches poetry and essay writing, and Native American literature, at the University of Missouri-St. Louis. In addition to poetry, her essays appear in jour nals and anthologies. She has earned awards and fellowships for her work, including the Mar i Sandoz Prair ie Schooner Short Stor y Award, the Western Literature Association Willa Pilla Prize for Humor in Writing, and University of Nebraska Fling and Larson Fellowships. She lives in St. Louis, Missour i, and has spent summers with family and friends in Wexford and Galway, Ireland, since 1985.


Read a sample from this book

Deer Woman at Fifty

One misty night on the road
to Wentzville, a doe cut across
the headlights and vanished
kicking gravel chips
from the edge of the woods,
her provoking rump
giving the last flash.

I used to be that woman,
luring men to their deaths,
or so they liked to think,
when each carried his death
like a second heart
already within him.


Wild Orchids, Enniscorthy

That was the year we strode the prom
between the rail line and the Slaney River,
turning under the bridge to climb back
to the rush of traffic on the road to town.

Massed in the field that was your boyhood
soccer pitch, wild orchids towered
over us, swaying above the ferns and grasses,
their purple blooms drifting like faces
brightened in the sunlit mist, witness
to the river, passing trains, the lone blue heron,
horses on the island, and our rain-jacketed selves
complaining of the weather and wondering
how to solve this or that, here or there.

One time we saw a double rainbow arc
the river on the tide’s retreat to Wexford.
From a chestnut tree a nightingale pierced
the summer night with its lament,
and we knew none of our cynical friends
would believe such walks real or even possible.

Progress pocked the town.
Some nights a smell of burning threaded
all along the streets like a builder’s promise.
Yellow machines scraped the ground raw
of rubble behind the market square
where the old hotel once stood.
Across the street a new Dunnes Stores
stretched tall as the cathedral,
and The Irish Times announced to all
that orchids were in trouble.

Our last night on the river path we paused
by bog cotton and wild flowers
to watch fish jump, and hope
for no further improvements.

Copyright © Drucilla Wall 2011


Reviews

Review: Geese at the Gates reviewed by BORBÁLA FARAGÓ for The Irish Times, July 2nd 2011

Drucilla Wall’s The Geese at the Gates is a collection that tells stories from two continents and a variety of cultural backgrounds. The majority of the poems are situated in the US, where the poet lives, and they sensitively combine Native American and Irish cultural imagery with scenes of contemporary American living. Wall has a keen eye for detail and a sharp poetic awareness: there are many examples of moving personal memories, small heroisms and poignant poems about death. Mrs Dunbar Sends for Milk, for example, touchingly describes how two young boys go to great lengths to fetch milk for their grandmother’s last cup of tea. However, the poet’s environmental consciousness produces much of the most beautiful work in the book. American and Irish landscapes and animals take centre stage in many of the poems that contemplate issues of identity and ecology. Disappearance Song mentions “the silence of honeybees, / the absence of wings” while Dirty Hands at the Gateway to the West describes a spiritualised encounter with the polluted Mississippi river, where the speaker touches the water in doubt:

Could it be dioxins caressed
the palms? Sparkling juices
from submerged cars and corpses?
Or was I baptized at the threshold,
the gateway to the West?

This is an exciting new collection by a poet whose storytelling and poetic vision create a keen anticipation for her future volumes.



Review: "Blues, wit and haiku" - The Geese at the Gates reviewed by Kevin Higgins. The Galway Advertiser, September 08, 2011.

THERE ARE those who say there are too many women poets nowadays. For these reactionary critics all was well in the garden of poetry until it was ruined by feminism and the advent of poetry workshops, which have conspired together to encourage many more women to write poetry. And most of it, shock horror, does not even rhyme.

In this context, it’s great to be able to welcome debut poetry collections by three very different female poets; each of which does its bit to confirm that the old style poetry world, in which women knew their supposed place, no longer exists except in the dreams of male versifiers of a certain age.

First up is The Geese at The Gates by Drucilla Wall (Salmon Poetry). Drucilla was born in Philadelphia, is part Native American, lives in St Louis, and spends most of her summers in Ireland.

Her poems reflect the variety of her life experience. ‘Hannibal, Missouri’ is a perfect country blues poem: “Finn came back home today, his second tour of duty done,/after leaving both his legs on a road back in east Afghanistan.”

Wall writes with great compassion, without ever lapsing into sentimentality, about an America that rarely makes it into poetry.

Her language has its own rough beauty. In ‘Cat Revelation’ the cat in question is described as “one fine haven for bugs/and stink.” In ‘On Teaching History’ she gives full vent to the wit that is central to her very appealing poetic style. And ‘Beer Can Chicken’ is simply delicious: “Tell the new girl to dig in./No plates, no forks, just dig in./Dig in before it’s gone./Tear off a piece./That’s the way we roll./Welcome to Kansas.” Drucilla Wall is my kind of poet.

At just 30 years of age Ailbhe Darcy is a real rising star of Irish poetry at the moment. I am proud to say that Ailbhe’s first published poem appeared in the Galway based Burning Bush magazine, which I co-edited with Mike Begnal, back in 2000, when she was just 19.

In Imaginary Menagerie (Bloodaxe) she shows that she is the most liberated kind of poet.

In ‘The mornings you turn into a grub’ and ‘He Tells Me I Have A Strange Relationship’ she writes with great originality and imagination. At times her images shock: “You warn the ceiling,/‘I think I’m having a heart attack.’ Your chest/seems to swell/or contract. You wonder/if you have woken as a fat, middle-aged man,/instead of beside one.” She makes perfect use of line breaks here.

Elsewhere, in poems such as the light hearted ‘Socks’ and the at times post-apocalyptic ‘Market Square, Five Years After’ she writes with a subversive humour that’s always threatening to overthrow the world as we think we know it. Imaginary Menagerie is a debut collection of rare accomplishment and polish.

Maeve O’Sullivan’s collection Initial Response (Alba Publishing) is made up exclusively of haiku. A haiku consists of three lines and, when written in Japanese, a total of 17 syllables. There are, generally speaking, no adjectives or overt statements. Each line contains its own specific image and the third and final line is meant to turn the poem around, to startle the reader.

O’Sullivan has divided the book into 26 different sections with headings such as ‘Autumn’, ‘J’aime Paris’, ‘Nursing Home’, and ‘Tunisia’, each subject having six haiku dedicated to it.

One of my personal favourites is in the section titled ‘Postcards From Hollywood’: “Cha Cha Lounge/slumped over the counter—/the bartender”.

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