Sunday, November 28, 2021

Faith Paulsen's "Cyanometer" on Finishing Line Press

 Faith Paulsen’s third chapbook touches on several topics, but the one that speaks to me most is family. The poet does not emphasize family; there are other themes. For whatever reason, that is what resonsates the most with me at this time.

   The title comes from an 18th Century scientific device for measuring the blueness of the sky. Regardless of the actual shade of blue, it is still the sky. Paulsen looks at the nuances with repect to people, places, and objects.

   A good example is found in “Mother in Law”. She wanted to be known to the poet as “Mom”, but a variety of other names appears by which the older woman was known

: “Umbrella in Sunshine” “Three Phone Calls a Day”. There are nanes given to the poet herself. Over time the poet finds herself sliding into the role of an older woman in the family herself. There is neither shock nor horror here, but rather the awareness. Readers can do what they wish with it.

    The poem describing the cyanometer, while not exactly a title poem , nevertheless establishes the framework for Paulsen. After naming different shades of blues, mentioning a disparate group of people, she states  her desire to “make my body an instrument to measure the blues”. (The poem is entitled “In 1789, a scientist invented.”.

     “My Brother and I Shared a Bathroom” has a tone that is gentle and reflective as years of memories are compressed into 31 lines, as the siblings “,,,rattled like commuter trains/ from dollhouses to Legos and bac.”

     Other poems deal with a father’s piano, a son teaching overseas, and a mother continuing the theme of family. Never maudlin, the poet looks at the nuances in her perceptions of long ago and the present,

     The remaining poems provide opportunities for nuances. Senior citizens discuss a John Ashberry poem, the Marianas Trench receives a letter,  and other people are mentioned.  “Cyanometer” is a book of poems that will delight readers as they read and reread the variety of poems found in it.

Arthur Turfa, “Saluda Reflections,” Finishing Line Press 2017. “The Botleys of Beaumount County”, Blurb,

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