Photo by Caroline Cabrera
July Open Reading Period selection, chosen by Nate Pritts
Fascinated by what emerges from unlikely sources when absorbed into memory, Gale Marie Thompson’s poems delight in what remains: John Wayne, Bewitched, turnip fields, camellias and canned figs, and—of course—kitchens. Soldier On uses the light of the kitchen as a starting (and ending) point to explore remembered spaces, which take on new facets and textures in a flood of associations and the mind’s endless cross-indexing. Inside a world of objects, people, and artifacts, Soldier On constructs the language in which we love and lose love.
“Soldier On is made out of a pure and haunting love for the world, for its beauty and its mistakes, and it‘s a sound you‘ll never be able to get away from.” — Nate Pritts
“Rumors come ahead of Soldier On—be ready to let your guard down, to find yourself thinking things you haven’t thought before. Be ready to be changed.” — Dara Wier
Yes, But More Animals
I am here dreaming of the Okavango, of lean times.
I keep thinking of my mouth without your mouth,
lobe-finned fishes, jackrabbits in their burrows.
There’s a true science to how I dress.
When I walk I like to watch the great rumble
of my thighs find the light.
I want to hold sand against my chest but think twice.
Nothing is real to me unless it’s right in front of me.
Is this enough bravado for you?
I want to give you the shape of a home,
but only if it’s the right one.
I want you to cry when I tell you the bad news,
like the breeze takes away every warm thing, and
I did the best I could with all the decades.
, Gale Marie Thompson’s first full-length collection of poetry, begins with a poem (‘Cilantro Blue’) that includes the line, ‘Anything is harbor. Anything is singing.’ What comes after that is a poetry of loosely gathered language—just stubborn enough to cohere, just disjointed enough to take on the characteristics of a delicate but indelible lace.” — Jenny E. Drai, Rain Taxi
The language in this collection shines with the unexpected—not just the little heartbreaks that happen in the moments of yearning or resignation to the what-might-have-been scenarios in the poems. The imagery itself is exquisite and surprising. In ‘Glass Eye Poem,’ for example, Thompson writes, ‘You knitted the smallest/yarn babies/in a seahorse pouch.’ Encountering these poems is like walking into an antique shop and finding a toy from your childhood or trinkets in a hope chest. The poems just feel like home. They are warm, safe, and familiar but also brim with that unnameable feeling that teeters between sadness and joy. In the opening poem, ‘Cilantro Blue,’ the speaker invites the reader in with, ‘Come be swept up & sieved/& enter & enter & enter.’ How can one walk into this work and not be swept up in the tender shine of Thompson’s words?
— American Microreviews & Interviews
Shared history comes from many places. The notion of collective consciousness. The need to be part of family. The desire to create meaning in a life. The desire to have a set of things—call them values, call them rituals—by or with which to live. Soldier On vibrates with shared history; it collects and describes its objects, it elaborates on and reinvents memory for the purpose of self-preservation as well as a wider, societal preservation. It celebrates the process of remembering and forgetting, and of needing to hold on and push forward. It is both deeply personal and vastly interpersonal. It possesses a certain American-ness and also universality. We see gingham and also pulsars, we ‘float up and down,’ ‘flash in and out.’ We are not sure where we exist sometimes, but are also grounded in the sense that we are somehow contained, by recurring details, scenes, and the inclusiveness of Thompson’s language. The I, we, and you, are interchangeable and immutable. We are collected and are collecting.
— Dara Cerv, Sink Review