by Catherine Moore
Finishing Line Press, 2015
26 pages, $12.95
Reviewed by Nicole Tong
The uncanny is a source of comfort in Catherine Moore’s chapbook Story. The collection opens with “Japanese Tea at the Akron Y” where “rice straw mats were puzzled together behind a makeshift / laminate separation between the Dao of Tea and Dodge ball.”
Later, in “Still Life”:
together in photos—
your lazy eye
mistaken for a wink,
my fallen cheek
likens a dimple.
The “lonely / together” in the frame of the camera lens is similar to the way Moore has arranged vignettes of the quotidian in the narrative mode throughout the collection. In a press release interview Moore writes: “I did not set out to with the intention of writing a chapbook; this collection originated by finding a familiar narrative voice in the poetry within my notebooks. In reading some of my narrative poetry, I noticed a pattern of menial tasks and an expression that in these moments that we still find art and poetry around us.”
In Moore’s collection, this tendency to find the narrative in everyday tasks starts with the cover, a photograph by Mandy Gist, of the word Story written in the condensation of a Laundromat dryer; this serves as an imperative for the reader to find the story. This impulse continues in the prosaic hybridity of many of the poems within Story.
I find the story in the liminal spaces or separations Moore offers—literal and figurative. In “Silent Singe” the speaker her “opinion now banned” and offers: “How thick the walls of my Alcatraz/ as I burn in my skin,” in “Shelters,” the speaker confesses:
From the porch, I live in quiet envy
of a neighbor’s chirpy sprinkler sighs
as their wet mover makes lawn pesto.
I don a coat of rainbow colors
to dance a happy veneer—
this slicker, a sleeve, a cover.
“The While” is proclaimed “[n]ow, unbearable” where “[e]verything a question, every event a direction.”
And despite the uncertainty and spaces for breath, silence, and even smell, Moore there are declarations that offer certainty: “I counted 1000 stars” and “There’s no value in knowing the North Star / or watching craters on the moon.” I am quite happy to be transported in these ways, between knowing and not: “Lost in the atmosphere,” “Lost, still, in the month of July,” or “Lost as days turn ugly, August” and trust that arrival, (in this case) a cell phone’s drone will be worth the feeling of “Disconnection” the poem’s title predicts.
Because of her ability to hold fast to the ephemeral, to question reason, and to provide so many ways of re-seeing the landscape of the everyday, I look forward to reading future work from this author.