Saying Her Name
Poems by Margaret Van Every
Tallahassee: Librophilia Press (2012) 150 pesos
Reviewed by Michael McGrath
It is fair to say that when we lose a parent, especially when we are young, we are the lost ones – at least for a while. But sometimes it takes a lifetime of battling heartache and confusion in order to find ourselves. The lifelong struggle to find herself after her mother’s death is what Margaret Van Every’s new book of poems, Saying Her Name, is all about.
Part of the struggle had to do with suddenly having no role model to follow as an example of how to be a woman. Another part of the struggle had to do with a stern father who had neither the will nor the way to help Margaret in the ‘becoming’ stage of her life. Therefore, she had to develop the will and discover the way alone. She succeeded admirably. However, according to the book, that success was arrived at by a lifetime of difficult trials and regrettable errors – at least insofar as Margaret was concerned.
And yet, as we see Margaret through her poetry today, we may only see the successful woman and the highly skilled artist. It is therefore well worthwhile to read her poetry to learn what she has gone through to become that woman and that artist. I see it as a valuable lesson for all of us – particularly we men who may have no idea of what the women in our lives may go through to become themselves.
For those who have read Margaret’s poetry before, you will find that Saying Her Name shows the same brilliance with wit and humor that was so obvious and enjoyable in her first book, A Pillow Stuffed with Diamonds. However, in this new collection, that wit and humor is accompanied by and alternated with a grittier and more biting interplay of words that reveals the dark side as well as the light side of her life. This can be seen in the following passage from Cinderella at Age 50:
…men are like shoes.
Some you can break in, some you endure.
Those rigid as glass
you shed as you dash for the door.
Some you can live with, some you can’t.
Alas, we never know until we try them.
The duality of light and dark and the interplay of humor and pathos evident here pervade the collection and engage the senses in ways that create powerful emotional impacts. More than anything else, what I find delightful when reading Margaret’s poems is that I am constantly surprised to discover the ways in which her words, images, ironies, and metaphors lead me to new ways of looking at familiar experience and make me say to myself, “I never thought of it that way before.” It often leaves me laughing through my tears. I am confident that any who read Margaret’s remarkable collection will find ample opportunity for both responses.
Saying Her Name is available in the Lakeside area at Diane Pearl Colecciones, The Oasis Cloud Cyber Cafe, and directly from the author at firstname.lastname@example.org
For more information about Lake Chapala visit: www.chapala.com