Saturday, March 04, 2006



MORAINE by Joanna Fuhrman
(Hanging Loose Press, 2006)

"Moraine" is a word Joanna Fuhrman found in a geologic dictionary and made into a propelling force for her new collection of poems. "Moraine", she explains, is a mound or ridge, ground deposited by the melting away of a glacier. For the book’s cover, she has painted a landscape of blue and purple stones to represent moraine. Meanwhile, pages bearing a small black and white photograph of a pile of stones provide a respite between her groups of poems that poet Denise Duhamel celebrates as “a sifting through the debris of modern day life in order to achieve landforms just as layered and organic as those alluded to in the title.”

The poems are nowhere as literal as Fuhrman’s cover painting. You cannot pin down moraine. You cannot pin down Fuhrman’s piles of cascading images. There is too much of a much ness -- too much of a mixing of objects and images. A brick “looking like a beautiful tear,” “music as the mosaic of air along tarred rooftops,” while rain banging against windows, she blends together “the partnerships of a joke and a tear." In these poems, Fuhrman is at liberty to enjoy the drama in feeling things from the outside in. In "ROOM TEMPERATURE, A MORE PERSONAL MORAINE," in one of the few directly autobiographical poems, she writes, “David says only the young or really immature can write exciting poetry. He keeps forgetting I’m over thirty now. Not as young as he thinks” she says, in a book that is nevertheless full of youthful élan. full of fresh discoveries.

Joanna Fuhrman is smart and funny. From the opening poem "ARCHITECTURE MORAINE," when she celebrates a chosen couple: “She like a man/invisible when/opening a checkbook” “He, like a woman/invisible when/taking off his clothes," the wit is only an occasional stand-in in for autobiography as we happily follow her into “a room “wearing a trench coat.” Fuhrman is poet in charge of her world around her, for whom part of the adventure is she “can’t say where the ocean might end and a filled thimble begin”. Even when assuming the role of audience, she is absorbing new information so you don’t know what you expect to happen, or what life might be like, what new kind of loving will happen diving into the bath tub of a Brooklyn efficiency apartment. Meanwhile, the idea of thinking, of taking the metaphor out of sex, and playing with “the nowhere of a photograph of a star” becomes part of the pleasure of leafing through Fuhrman’s myriad Moraine poems.

A new young poet, a poet with a unique voice, means an enlargement of the world of poetry, opening us up to new ways of seeing. Joanna Fuhrman‘s books are such an enlargement. Beginning with her first, with FREUD IN BROOKLYN, she maps out for the reader geography of funny, sad and challenging poems, poems that are travelogues of the states of Florida, Texas, Connecticut, and Seattle and the town and county of Missouri. Born in New York, she has taught writing on many levels and served as a reading coordinator for the Poetry Project at St. Mark’s Church. With MORAINE, she is still at the beginning of her books. I can only look forward to her explorations of new terrains.


Corinne Robins, poet, art historian, teaches art criticism at Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, runs the reading series POETS FOR CHOICE (Ceres Gallery) and is author of three poetry collections, most recently ONE THOUSAND YEARS (2004) from Marsh Hawk Press.


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