A Life in Poems, by Patricia Neely-Dorsey
Grant House Publishers, (2007)
Softback: $15.00, 89 pages
Poetry is subjective in that it is transpired from the mind of a person whose life experiences, events, feelings about their observations and interactions, location, and period in humankind, causes the words to evolve almost into its own persona. The poetry, in other words, is a reflection of the Poet, as the Poet travels through their life and times to which the words and poetry are significant.
Patricia Neely-Dorsey is definitely a Southern Poet in that she speaks of an identity in her book of poems called Reflections of a Mississippi Magnolia that can be acutely understood best, by a Southerner. Thus, we can say that the identity or persona created in this book of poems is parochial in some sense, yet it is universal in another sense.
When one thinks of a parochial meaning, or person, we might think of such as insular, unsophisticated. The Poet here speaks of Mississippi distinctly, and the people in her particular life, the neighborhood, the conventions, and culture of her surroundings, as in "Making Cracklings":
First you have to kill a hog
Then, carefully take off the skin;
Cut it up in little squares,
And then the fun begins.
Take a big, black, iron pot,
Then, put in some lard'
As you'll see, it's quite simple,
Nothing very hard...
In this way, Neely-Dorsy creates a sense of a limited consciousness; a narrow-minded, child-like perspective, and even as "the child" grows up, there is this child-like sense of observation in that southern mentality. "Little Miss Perfect" exemplifies this observation:
I knew a little girl when I was young,
Who wore two pigtails across her head;
I thought she was the cutest thing,
And this, I often said,
Over the years, I watched her,
She was always quiet, likeable and smart;
To me, she seemed so perfect,
And had life down to an art....
In "Southern Night (Southern Style)" Neely-Dorsy exacts the emotions one would experience while sitting on a porch, staring out into the warm Southern sky:
Moths flicker `round the front porch light
Fireflies are taking flight
The sun has disappeared from sight
And all around the sounds of night.
Everything is warm and still
A sense of calm that one can feel
The moon shines bright over yonder hill
Can all this loveliness be real?
So on the one hand, this parochial sense is implicated by the language, "yonder hill" and from her experience in a Mississippi Southern moment.
On the other hand, however, these emotions can be felt supposing, on the Afghanistan border by some soldier sitting guard, looking out into the blazing heat of night. Neely-Dorsey then, while speaking of her own hometown, and her own particular love of the Southern Mississippi locale, and lifestyle, touches upon those universal sensations that anyone can claim. Further, it can be read to meet so many levels of emotions, and even ages of people, that such a "local" feel can touch someone even on the other side of the world; everyone has after all, their sense of place, their landscape in mind; their quiet inner observer of life, love, joy and sorrow.
Home is where the heart is,
That's what they always say;
Well, my heart is Mississippi's,
In the most profoundest way;
It's who I am,
It's what I like,
It's everything to me;
A Mississippi magnolia girl
Is all I'll ever be.
Patricia Neely-Dorsey is a Poet of that fair Southern spirit, but she is also leagues with poets like Robert Frost, or Elizabeth Bishop, who wrote in that seemingly simple read, yet addressed universally and infinitely one's soul. A book of poetry that one can contemplate upon, consider in every aspect of a life in any city, country of world.
Reviewed by Elle Nolan-Ruiz
Founder | Creator,
International Books Cafe