Emily Lake Hansen is a third year MFA candidate … though her poetry exhibits a sophistication and humanity that any sensible writer would envy! I think “Children’s Pool” is one of my new favorite poems—partially for its technical elements (alliteration, pacing, stark imagery), but more importantly, for its underlying story of expectation and disappointment.
That story is powerful on its own but it takes on special relevance when read in concert with “Postcards from Weeki Wachee.”
Sectioned poems are tricky. They require leaps in scene similar to chapters in a book but they also need a narrative or thematic connective tissue. That’s tough. And that might be why, aside from a few like “Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird” by Wallace Stevens and “A Day for Anne Frank” by C.K. Williams, I tend to prefer shorter poems. So I was all the more surprised when Emily’s “Postcards from Weeki Wachee” caught—and held—my attention. The narrative and emotional resonance actually reminds me a lot of the C.K. Williams poem, although I can’t quite say why (maybe it’s the blend of heartbreak with taut imagery).
“How to Feed a Sea Lion” is another great poem—one that exhibits exactly the kind of personification and poignant detail I just love to see in narrative poetry. The image of that sea lion with “skin like rubber rain boots” will be with me for a while. The poem also exhibits the same subtle, accessible metaphysics seen in “Why We Feed Him Tomatoes.”
I remember when I was a third year MFA candidate. Like most people in that position, I had something of a runaway ego—a habit of falling in love with my own voice, trying to be provocative, etc. What excites me about these poems is not just the poems themselves but the hint that here is a poet of great talent who also grasps just how much a writer can accomplish by tossing her or his ego out the window (as much as such a thing is possible) and letting the scene speak for itself.