The Woodcarver's Wife

TALKING TO MYSELF: 30 April 2014  It's not every day that a contemporary poet gets compared to William Shakespeare, John Donne AND Gerard Manley Hopkins in the same review. However, those who have followed Sherry Chandler's writing career, and those like me who are privileged to call her both friend and mentor,  will not be surprised at the critics' high praise for her newest book, The Woodcarver's Wife. Take a moment to read ELAINE PALENCIA'S review in Pegasus, the Kentucky State Poetry Society's journal, reprinted below. Better yet, come out to hear Sherry read at 8 PM TONIGHT at Hollar 71 in Lexington, or at Morris Books in Lexington, Sunday, May 18. The Woodcarver's Wife may be purchased from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Powell's and from local independent book stores.  

"KSPS Pegasus Winter/Spring 2014


Book Beat


Sherry Chandler. The  Woodcarver's Wife (Nicholasville KY: Wind Publications), ©2014, 70  pp. $15.

Chandler's second full-length poetry collection, following upon her Kentucky classic, Weaving a New Eden,  sets an even richer table. No one this side of Shakespeare, Donne, and Hopkins writes with more joy in the play of words, with a greater diversity of rhyme—slant, eye, internal, para, you name it—or with a keener sense of rhythm. The tension between strong emotion and structure produces a formal music that is both beautiful and moving.

At first, the title may be off-putting, suggesting a certain abdication of individuality. But the description is as tender as it is wry. Forty years of marriage to the same cherished man is the subject and long relationships are complicated. In "Meek," Milton's Eve asks, "Inferior, who is free?" In the sweep of longtime love, "we have sparkled wet as sun on dry/champagne, danced wet as an April sky"("Sonnenizio On a Line From Hayden Carruth") and settled in for the long haul: "My love is grounded, my love does not pretend,/it  feeds on bread, not strutting gasconade" ("Against Panache").  "Hard in a long marriage to discern Ares / from Eros," she says in "Duet," and then shows us how to do it.

The book is grounded in the rural Kentucky landscape. "Tobacco Barn" observes "a wake of turkey vultures" roosting on a structure vacant of crops but full of history, the birds serving as undertakers for a vanishing way of life. Nature closely observed yields this sobering lesson: "We are slow, my love, and dissolution/in this buggy world is quick ... we eat until we're eaten" ("What Bugs Us").The shadows gather as the elegiac tone spreads all the way to the final poem, which is bravely titled "Beginning" and ends, "Only one thing I know—whether or not/we're  to meet on some sentimental shore—/we won't begin the ending solitary./ We spin in common orbit. Faithful companions, like the Dog Stars,/ we'll wobble our way to an end, binary."  Highly recommended."

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