|THERE IS, INDEED, POETRY IN THIS
Jane Elkington Wohls poems contrast the
ongoing natures of life and war.
Triage, the introductory poem in Jane Elkington Wohls new collection, is about sorting of various kinds, including sorting the living from the dead. After this introduction, the book, also named Triage, is divided into two parts, each starting with a 12-sonnet cycle concerning the ongoing war in Iraq. These sonnets meditate on the meaning of the war, and on the contrast between the peaceful world of finches, poppies, and students on the one hand and the horrors of the conflict on the other.
Theres strong irony in the first sonnets first sentence, I find no poetry in this. The last sonnet in this sequence returns to the irony in its last line: It isnt difficult to miss/that its hard to find real poetry in this. Wohl has indeed found real poetry in this. Its dark, its sad, its angry, and its political, but it is poetry.
In addition to the politics, Triage is also about the poets ongoing spiritual journey. She writes of epiphany in such poems as In the Desert and Communion. Nature abides, in contrast to the unnatural war. (Ironically, war imitates nature: it carries on too, and it blooms.) The landscapes in the poets world are beautiful, even if theyre sometimes dark, as in The Rivers Edge. Only Beauty shows us we must find beauty where it is, even if its not where were trained to find it.
In this book full of leitmotifsrecurring owls, poppies, burning bushes, studentsthe narratives focus in on moments of change. But for all the spiritual changes, and all the leitmotifs, we are compelled to return to a poetic dismay over the mess war has made in Iraq. Triage is an important book.
Jane Elkington Wohl is an English Instructor at Sheridan College and a Creative Writing Instructor for the Goddard College M.F.A. in Writing Program. Her poems have appeared in numerous journals and quarterlies, and she is the author of the poetry collection Beasts in Snow, published by High Plains Press. She lives and writes in Sheridan, Wyoming.
by Jane Elkington Wohl
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