Friday, September 30, 2016

"Night Ringing" by Laura Foley

Night Ringing
by Laura Foley

Night Ringing by Laura Foley is currently on tour with Worldwind Virtual Book Tours. The tour stops here today for my review and an excerpt. Please be sure to visit the other tour stops as well.

Sensual language and alliterative verses make this poetic celebration of traumas and triumphs a meaningful read. Poet Laura Foley’s strong fifth collection, Night Ringing, ruminates on romance and family via autobiographical free verse.
Midway through the collection, a poem poses an important question: "How shall we make sense of these images, lapping over us, day and night…" The answer seems to come in the transformation of autobiographical vignettes into a variety of alliterative poems. Gently erotic language and moments culled from everyday life are used in poems that commemorate family members and lovers, lost and found.

Ode to My Feet
For years I've thought them queer,
hiding them
in steamy boots and sneakers,
but recently, I've begun to like
their well-worked lines, blue veins,
tapered, skinny elegance.
Funny-looking, yes, oddly
protuberant, awkwardly angled,
unlike anyone else's,
models for a medieval statue's,
ancient granite feet
on a church facade,
thoroughly unmodern.
Yet, how well they climb steep cliffs,
work my slinky kayak's rudder,
how they tingle, tapping to music
across a wooden floor,
dangling below me
when I sit on high seats,
and turning pink as we wade
the cool mountain pond,
warming, as they carry me
faithfully home to rest.

Not Drowning
On my back like a corpse, enjoying buoyancy,
I drift downstream as Amtrak, hooting, passes over.
I wave at passengers from the city,
peering down at me with concern.
All my life I've waved at passersby,
now I wave so they know I'm not dead.
All my life I've been swimming, not drowning
despite any appearance to the contrary.

Praise for the Book
"'I revel in the genius of simplicity' Laura Foley writes as she gives us in plain-spoken but deeply lyrical moments, poems that explore a life filled with twists and turns and with many transformations. Through it all is a search for a fulfilling personal and sexual identity, a way to be most fully alive in the world. From multicultural love affairs through marriage with a much older man, through raising a family, through grief, to lesbian love affairs, Night Ringing is the portrait of a woman willing to take risks to find her own best way. And she does this with grace and wisdom. As she says: 'All my life I've been swimming, not drowning.'" ~ Patricia Fargnoli, author of Winter, Duties of the Spirit, and Then, Something
"I love the words and white space of poetry. I love stories even more. In this collection, Laura Foley evokes stories of crystallized moments, of quiet and overpowering emotion, of bathtubs and lemon chicken. The author grows up on the pages, comes of age, and reconciles past with present. Almost. Try to put the book down between poems to savor each experience. Try, but it won't be easy." ~ Joni B. Cole, author of Toxic Feedback, Helping Writers Survive and Thrive
"Plain-spoken and spare, Laura Foley's poems in Night Ringing trace a life story through a series of brief scenes: separate, intense moments of perception, in which the speaker's focus is arrested, when a moment opens to reveal a glimpse of the larger whole. Memories of a powerful, enigmatic father, a loving but elusive mother, a much older husband, thread Foley's stories of childhood, marriage and motherhood, finally yielding to the pressure of her attention, as she constructs a series of escapes from family expectations, and moves toward a new life. In these lucid, intense poems, Foley's quiet gaze, her concentration, and emotional accuracy of detail, render this collection real as rain." ~ Cynthia Huntington, author of Heavenly Bodies
"Foley's voice rings with quiet authority undercut by calamity, examining a life so extraordinary, she seems to have lived several people's lives, setting a high bar for poetic craft she meets, in great mystery perfectly expressed in the tiny, quotidian, 'spent matches pressed on wet pavement', to soulful beauty, 'as wind lifts/every shining wave'; in wisdom rooted in humor, from the deliciously funny 'Flunking Jung', to self-deprecating wit, misreading 'poetic' as 'pathetic', reminding us wisdom is love, grown from self-compassion." ~ April Ossmann, author of Anxious Music

My Review

By Lynda Dickson
Night Ringing is an autobiographical collection of 63 poems, both in verse and free-form. The book is divided into five sections, each one dedicated to different parts of the author's life.
Part I catalogs her childhood memories: her parents' divorce, a friend's suicide, eavesdropping on strangers, her mother's drinking, her father's abusive manner, life after her parents' divorce, a skiing holiday with her father, horse riding, her mother running over a dog, and her first sexual encounter.
Part II focuses on early womanhood: abortion, her elopement and wedding to a Muslim, their meeting and courtship, a friend being convicted of murder, falling in love all over again, her relationship with her father, pregnancy, family vacations, and the death of her sister and father.
Part III deals with marriage and parenthood: her marriage to an older man, life on the farm, divorce, starting anew, and online dating.
Part IV covers aging: her mother's stroke, the death of her mother, discovering a new love with a woman, seeing a therapist, health problems, and another breakup.
Part V is mostly about carrying on: her ambiguous feelings about her breakup, raising a teenage daughter, her son's wedding, and sharing custody.
The poems celebrate the themes of family, love, marriage, and parenthood - all the while accompanied by the ever-present dog. They cover such diverse topics as suicide, murder, getting left behind at a rest stop, starting a fire, lapping up maple syrup, observing turtles, grinding coffee beans, homosexuality, erections, shopping, dreams, flunking exams, crying in front of a waitress, feet, floating, and drinking coffee. The titles are a very important part of each poem, e.g., "Leaving Him", in which the title says it all. The author manages to evoke taste, smell, and the changing weather with just a few choice words. My favorite line: "All my life I've been swimming, not drowning, despite any appearance to the contrary."
A beautiful concept beautifully rendered.

About the Author
Laura Foley is the author of five poetry collections. The Glass Tree won the Foreword Book of the Year Award, Silver, and was a Finalist for the New Hampshire Writer’s Project, Outstanding Book of Poetry. Joy Street won the Bi-Writer’s Award. Her poems have appeared in journals and magazines including Valparaiso Poetry Review, Inquiring Mind, Pulse Magazine, Poetry Nook, Lavender Review, The Mom Egg Review, and in the British Aesthetica Magazine. She won Harpur Palate’s Milton Kessler Memorial Poetry Award and the Grand Prize for the Atlanta Review’s International Poetry Contest.