“The anatomy of genius”

I killed three lanai intruders with this book, two wasps and a wolf spider. (Had to. Allergies.) But it is Enid Shomer who slays our hearts with her 2020 collection Shoreless.

I can’t remember when I have been so completely bowled over by a collection of poetry. “Exquisite ” leaps to mind. And “masterful, ” alongside “majestic.”

These are intensely emotionally gripping poems, each a jewel in the crown of this stunning collection, one eighteen years in the making. It us no wonder the book was honored with the 2019 Lexington Rudnitsky Editor’s Choice Award.

Pain. Disability. Cancer. Loss. Grief. In spare, unflinching lines, Enid details her journey through those painful realities, reminding us of our own similar journeys. So many of these poems are the poet’s way of empathizing with us, her readers.

Thus she gives us a poem titled “Three Disks, Two Rods, and a Dozen Screws” and we have a flashback of surgeries and scars. What’s past is past. Relief ensues.

And, for all the brutal realities in these poems in which “tears// are the native idiom,” Enid soothes us with nature, the universal balm. And nature in Enid’s hands is rendered so viscerally yet elegantly. We encounter the snowy plover that is “that little puff of a party favor” and learn that the Gulf of Mexico has “serious blue ideas.” There “the waves roll/ into sacred scrolls that hold up// the world.”

Enid’s language is lively throughout.  The initial stanza from “Vow” is a particularly jaunty one:

My sidecar, my silver spoon,

perfect curl of pencil shaving.

Smooth volute. Dangle dude.

Fine cheroot, the beard of bees

between my legs.

Even Enid’s use of drop lines is immaculate. You find them in only two poems, one her “Ars Poetica,” one the book’s master poem of four pages, “Pausing on a Hillside in Anatolia.” You gotta read the book to believe the power in that rarely used technique.

O, and about that gorgeous villanelle, “Villanelle for My Two Spines,” at its core is our human “chain of bones.” She calls it our “venomous snake,” and that’s an apt metaphor as anyone who’s had back problems (as I had prior to surgery) will agree. Bipedalism has its drawbacks, and Enid depicts them with firsthand exactitude as only a distinguished poet can, grateful for the syringe of fluid that delivers “the slackening// of pain.”

In that spirit, I am grateful for the injection of wisdom and beauty her book has brought me, a book that slayed the poisonous spider and wasp—of my imagination. Available from the publisher at: https://www.perseabooks.com/shoreless and on Amazon at https://www.amazon.com/Shoreless-Enid-Shomer/dp/0892555211/ref=sr_1_1?dchild=1&keywords=Enid+Shomer%2C+Shoreless&qid=1622314840&sr=8-1

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