The Eyes of a Flounder: Poetry

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9781560851882: The Eyes of a Flounder: Poetry
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 Laura Hamblin writes of good mothers and bad, women who married and those who didn’t, lovers and “Celibacy at Forty-two.” Her “weird sisters” forage for mice and toads and contemplate silicone implants. Some of her characters demonstrate pregnancy envy, while others seem content to share a space with three dogs and a cat.

She muses on the different roles assigned to girls and boys: “boys with shellacked / faces play basketball. / Closer to god ... / they know power, / ... I begin to bleed, / am taught with the other / girls to crochet, to knit / ... Dark skein— / unraveling girl.”

Contemplative and satisfying, Hamblin’s observations on religion are particularly poignant, such as watching her son baptized at eight to “wash from him sins he did not commit.” One of her weird sisters attempts repentance but then thinks of killing swine. Playful, full of meaning, her poems contain overlapping layers of understanding that prompt further contemplation.

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Excerpt. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

 Dog Star

Panting at Orion’s heel with an eye out
for Lepus. At your helical setting,
farmers sow beans, lucern, millet;
at your rising, you flood
the Nile. Luminous and serious,
heralding sunrise to the east,
light becomes visible when you set.
In and out of the Milky Way,
your baleful barking dries
up the body. Canicular days, you bicker
in a stellar blue and white.
Scorning, tremulous wave
of light, we cut the heart of a fawn-
colored dog at your festival three
times a year—to ensure the blossom
of fruit, to avert mildew and rust,
to hallow our fat harvest. What
others mistake for a silent sky
is the trough of the wave of your howl.

Review:

Although The Eyes of a Flounder is not intended to be a collection of nature poems, Laura Hamblin's debut collection creates a mosaic of images and experiences about life, loss, hope, religion, and family with sporadic references to nature. In 2003 the Utah Arts Council awarded a shorter version of her manuscript the First Place Poetry Prize. Woven amid Hamblin's observations is nature's constant rhythm, even though that rhythm does not stand out from the other issues she explores. She fuses descriptions of nature with her musings about life and death: "And we listen to leaves, like words, / scratch and crack through the frigid sky / and watch as nature begins / to die gracefully full of our own / death" (35). The natural world is part of the whole life experience; it comes on the scene to explain and teach but is not the focus of the collection. Hamblin does, however, hone in on themes often found in nature writing: solitude, time, sense of place, identity, and naming. The poem "Riftia" describes undersea tubeworms that ask Adam, "What name do you give to us?" (61). Readers familiar with such themes will understand nature's essential role in life experiences, but they are not addressed as discourse of their own. Within Hamblin's poetry, the themes are part of the larger journey toward self-awareness. Such a journey is evident in the poem "Celibacy at Forty-two (III)," where the title of the collection reappears. Hamblin writes that "love is like the eyes of a flounder / grown on the one side of its head" (64). Just as a flounder experiences a metamorphosis of vision, Hamblin's collection alludes to undercurrents of adaptation that affect all life experiences. --Interdisciplinary Studies in Literature and the Environment, Breanne Grover

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