Nina Bennett reviews Geraldine Connolly’s new collection, Aileron
Terrapin Books, 2018
Upon seeing the title of Geraldine Connolly’s new collection, Aileron, I thought the book would be poems about travel. In a broad metaphorical sense, it is. Travel through memories, one’s history, one’s childhood, the movement of relocation. An aileron is a hinged surface in the trailing edge of an airplane wing, used to control lateral balance. Simply put, in order to turn the airplane, the pilot uses the ailerons to tilt the wings in the desired direction. Connolly uses the concept of an aileron to turn the readers from childhood memories, to family history, to relocation from Montana to Arizona. In a blog interview published by the University of Arizona Poetry Center, Connolly says “Navigation is a key theme in the book, navigation through the disappointments and tragedies that life can bring.” Terrapin Books has produced yet another stunning cover. LM Grimes is becoming known for his use of feathers in his art. The feathers on the cover resemble an opened fan. They serve to soften the idea of a metal aileron. In the title poem, the speaker says:
I became feathers swiveling,
Four numbered sections guide readers through change, both personal and societal, where “They covered my mother’s farm/ with drilling rigs,” and “even now I can smell grass/growing and leaves turning rusty.” “Montana” is a subtle abecedarian, a list poem noting aspects of the state, where “Zen mountain after Zen meadow after Zen stream” exist alongside “Aspen, arrow root, agate.” As I read “Empty Storefront” I visualized many of the ghost towns I’ve seen during my travels in the west:
No, not a mirror but a city
full of shadows and post offices.
Shadows of the past, of childhood, of former homes and landscapes fill this book.
There are personal, introspective poems, such as “My Self-Confidence,” and “Ode to My Lost Quickness,” where “ I deal with what I have./ No longer the swiftness/of a wing through air.” Again, the impression of motion, of flight, which is found throughout this collection.
These poems are full of movement, both literal and suggestive. “Birds plummet,” “ wild blackberries seethe,” “the pink fizz/of dawn rises,” “wind lashes,” and “days unroll like heavy carpets.” Connolly makes full use of powerful, active verbs, keeps the reader moving from image to image, from past to present, from sisters building a hut in the linen closet to a boy crossing the Rio Grande into Arizona.There’s an underlying feel of restlessness in these poems:
I tilt and swerve, I fly towards
a sky that spins and tumbles.
(Out of Balance)
The world has changed since childhood, is still changing, and we must find a way to be in the here and now.
Nina Bennett is the author of Mix Tape, & Sound Effects. Read more about her at www.transcanalwriters.com