ATLAS by KATRINA VANDENBERGMICHAEL A. WELLS reviews
Atlas by Katrina Vandenberg
(Milkweed Editions, 2004)
Atlas – A Poetic Gift
It is only by taking a reader out of his or her seat and transforming their mental image of place and time that the collaborative between poet and reader can occur. Some writers never truly are able to bring the reader along but Katrina Vandenberg has achieved this with her first book, Atlas. Vandenberg writes with a marvelous mixture authority and tenderness. Her poems have been published in The Iowa Review, American Scholar and Poetry Northwest. She was a 1999-2000 Fulbright fellow to the Netherlands.
Atlas is a journey, Vanderberg's journey through a period of life that bridge unique tragedy and the commonality of day in and day out living. She’s a woman in a plaid shirt writing a poem about the mundane everyday existence we share. She is the grieving widow who finds enormous beauty in the heartbreak of loss, "but aren’t you sorry you will never see / a tulip that would make you offer all / you own for the layered, translucent promise // in its brown paper wrapper? Aren’t you sorry / you never saw John Keats in his dressing gown / scribbling an ode beneath his flowering plum, // will never know the ten thousand men with hemophilia / infected with HIV two decades ago, / and the purpose that briefly lit their brilliant veins?"
Vandenberg’s poetry touched me deeply one moment and brought me to laughter the next. In "Consuming Desire," she seems to speak for everyone. The lovely coed from the next table who touched John on the arm as though she wasn’t even there-- "Excuse me, sir, but what / is that naughty little desert? / And I knew from the way he glanced / at the frothy neckline of her blouse, / then immediately cast his eyes on his plate / before giving a fatherly answer, / he would have given up dessert three months / for the chance to feed this one to her, / I was stunned; John was hopeful; / but the girl was hitting on his cake." But Vandenberg in a voice of pure honesty finds the way to say just what we are all thinking, "You want a big piece / of this world. You would love to have the whole thing."
Atlas shows Katrina Vandenberg has enormous promise as a poet with a gift of bringing us all along on the Journey.
Michael A. Wells is a native Missourian. He makes his home in Independence, Missouri with his wife Cathy where he has been writing poetry for several years now. Michael’s poetry has been published in three anthologies as well as the Park University Scribe and the Independence, Examiner. His poem “Coming Out” was the Missouri runner up in the 2005 Senior Poet Laureate contest. Michael currently serves as Vice President of the Kansas City Metro Verse (a chapter of the Missouri Poetry Society). His non-writing interests include baseball, reading, and wine. He is the Father of four, three of which are grown. He is an avid blogger, known as Stick Poet Superhero and his blog can be read at http://stickpoetsuperhero.blogspot.com.