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Review: Wide Bones
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Patrick Carrington

Rise, Fall and Acceptance

Patrick Carrington
Main Street Rag
PO BOX 690100
Charlotte, NC
Paper / 88pgs / $12

Wide Bones: Bearing the Weight
in Patrick Carrington's Rise, Fall and Acceptance

        I've read Patrick Carrington's poems in various journals and was excited to be given a review copy of his collection, Rise, Fall and Acceptance. I expected to have reactions to the poems in this book similar to those already experienced while reading Carrington's typically sensuous work. But I didn't. Although I may have stumbled across some of these poems in other publications, as well (the credits list is well-padded and a tribute to Carrington's popularity as a poet), I didn't wholly recognize them, laid out together, as an embodiment of his style. Oh, yes, they are 100% Patrick Carrington, but there's a particular haunting undertone to nearly every poem in Rise, Fall and Acceptance that I hadn't previously sampled in his work.

        Death pervades many of these poems. And this makes for a heavy read. It would be difficult to pore over the book all at once in one sitting, as I sometimes do with lighter fare.

        Many of the poems seem so wrapped in grief that it's hard to get beyond the emotional wash. Yet others are so hopeful they rise, like clear songs, above the sober subject of mortality, each line crystal and vibrating. Carrington's Music for a Girl, while also about death, is one such poem: "And their sad / singing rises with the prayer / your sleeping eyes rise through / their chanting, reaching out / its pious and melodic arms to the stars."

        Carrington's poem, Willie's Nephews, is couched in matter-of-fact fashion using common specters of loss – drawn with the details of been there and just a part of life; Willie's nephews knew "how wide bones bear the boxes of friends / and family, stiffen under weight / and the molten leak of eyes." And they "knew the tossing / of roses, the shoveling of dirt."

        An additional message intertwined in the less-brooding and insightful opening lines – a statement about an older, male role-model which weaves life lessons for young men – makes this poem exceptional:

                "Uncle's education found its way to the center,
                our roughneck core that longed for lectures
                schoolmarms miss."

        And later:

                "In his words we felt the rawhide reins
                of bridled oxen wrapped on muddy hands"

        The all-important, affirmative male role-model makes his way into more than a few of Carrington's poems in this largely solemn and unified collection. The masculine timbre, the seeking for connections man-to-man, is evident in the poems, Brothers on the Crossed Hill: "It is his blood, spilled and running / in our limbs and down the streets / of Kerry," and in Scrubbing MacGillycuddy's Reeks: "I begged // the heavy water to make me stay . . . and be / what I was and should be. A father / like those rocks. A man. A good man // who puts his whiskey down, his hat / on the rack and boots under the bed, / and checks his baby's breath." And in Smokey Mountain Symphony, the respectful male bond is glorified when Carrington writes that he "opened the urn / the wind lifted the ashes / and his throat, sprinkled him / across the wilderness, and / he was god again" . . . "I hear you, my father // in the aria of fir trees and flame azaleas."

        No, Rise, Fall and Acceptance is not a light nor easy read— it requires attention. Relationships with both males and females – whether living or regarded after death – are observed with a distinct, distant examination through Carrington's characteristically stoic and somewhat sardonic eyes. The characters within the collection are to be appreciated for their quirks, their blunt humanness. Some to be pitied. Some admired. The tenor is assuredly Carrington's.

        It should also be noted that the poetic styles in this book are varied, are an exploration for Carrington, who tries, usually successfully, to match tension with subject. Some of the poems appear opaque, as though layered with a crusty impasto which allows readers to see nothing beneath the tactile surface. Others are glazed compositions, light illuminating through to the underside of the author's thoughts.

        Such variation in wordplay, form and accessibility does not always please readers who like to feel they have a firm grasp of a particular writer. This may give some people cause for self-examination about the way they approach the work of a poet. Should a poet be considered distinguished for maintaining a singular style of writing? For probing variation?

        This characteristic collection of poems represents Patrick Carrington as a poet who is able to shift between using simple language and imagery to complex expressions and concepts. And while the book focuses on a couple of centralized themes, the writing itself offers a variety in spirit and diversity of artfulness. Not every poem may be said to be a masterpiece, but the measure of this assembly is worth appraising, whether as though experienced as floating "on lakes . . . under parasols" or coming to find, intellectually, that Carrington always adds "another rule, another / angle, one more layer of complexity, / just when you think it's done."

                                                                By Ocalive Olaopa Mwenda

Ocalive Olaopa Mwenda makes her home in Oregon with her two irascible tabbies (and one even more cantankerous husband) and pushes words around as often as possible. Sometimes they push back. She's a commercial technical writer, copy editor and fledgling poet, with dreams of selling her first fantasy novel in the near future. She is a semi-regular staff reviewer for The Centrifugal Eye.

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