The Innisfree Poetry Journal
by Joshua Gray on Yvette Neisser Moreno
Yvette Neisser Moreno, Grip. Gival Press, 2012.
The Gripping Moments of Yvette Neisser Moreno
Yvette Neisser Moreno's first book of her own poetry, titled Grip, captures moments of suspended time. Some of them are journeys, including inner ones, while others are just strong impressions and encounters. From the poem that opens the collection —and the opening line of the poem—she makes a declaration of beginnings. With it, and the imagery that follows, readers can only continue to the end of the entire collection.
This, not Spring, is the time of beginnings.
A celestial hush has descended,
wrenching the wind to stillness,
startling birds back to their roots,
beaks clamped shut
to empty the moment of sound.
—From "The Stillness of Snow"
From the aftereffects of September 11, 2001, to moments of insomnia, from travels to other countries and travels within herself, her occasional poetry is stunning in its brevity. She does not spell anything out, never offers a moral, but just lets language and imagery make sense of the occasion she shares. In this way she reminds me of Billy Collins, but her words also remind me of those she has translated, works of others she has made her own sense of. One of the most memorable poems in the collection is a mere question from a friend. A question of religion and politics. A question of love for others. A question of friendship.
Fadi drew on his smoke.
Do you support Israel?
I took a deep breath,
listened to the desert hum,
felt the weight of silence.
Would the night weave my love
for Israel and Palestine
into some kind of logic?
I hoped the truth would be enough.
Yes, and the Palestinian cause.
—From "A Question of Friendship"
After the introduction of place and time comes this excerpt. After her answer the suspense of a friend's reaction is gripping all the way to the poem's concluding line.
Every poem grips the reader in some way. Whether her travels take her to Egypt or nearby neighborhoods, whether she tells us of the loved one who has passed away or an old Oak tree still alive, her language demands attention.
how it grounds itself, how the base broadens
and flares into a pleated skirt of roots
creeping farther and farther out,
molding to the slope of earth.
—From "Every Gnarled Inch"
These poems are occasional—they are small moments of her life—but are often about big issues. Short-film filmmakers might love to make films about these poems. If readers of poetry love poems like these, this collection deserves a place on the bookshelf.
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