By MARY POPHAM
A poem is an experience of high pleasure—an invitation into the mind of an artist, to evoke comparisons, conclusions, epiphanies. These promises are fulfilled by Kathleen Driskell’s latest poetry collection, Seed Across Snow.
Beginning with “Overture,” the poet lays out the principle themes and reflections. Driskell draws her reader close, takes him with her to scenes that rush across the mind, tangle, caress and stab the senses. Intermittently, the work relives the past and heightens the present. Images of school bus wipers in the rain and a storm outside their house; her grandmother’s stories about women who “were beaten so that their faces/ held the purple blooms of late roses;” a nude model who “looks pretty good for her age;” “an old dog carried home from the vet and nested in blankets while … our children slept with him one last night.”
The strongest poems conjure early painful events: the death of two classmates—sisters hurrying to cross the field for home, struck by a car; the teacher who places his coat over the face of one and cries that he does not have a coat for the other.
Intimate times are revealed by the narrator with the memory of a newlywed sitting by the hotel pool, envisioning a future. The wedding of a relative—a bride in a windstorm; the florist’s choice for a husband’s bouquet; the church turned into a home. “Wedding Ring” is a spectacular song of phrases—images of other rings—wet circles, rolling rings, round splotches on a knotted floor, rings lost in kitchen pipes. This is a poem to be read over and over, always finding something new.
Akin to the poet’s image of a black champagne bottle floating in the water’s current, Driskell’s poetry reflects on past sorrows and joys that work like dreams to smooth out the mind, compensate for wrongs and lift the mundane into the profound.
Mary Popham is a writer who lives in Louisville. She earned a master of fine arts in writing from Spalding University.