BOOK REVIEW
 


34 pages,  $18 U.S.
ISBN: 10: 0-09822495-9-4
ISBN: 12: 978-0-9822495-9-8

250 copies
of If I Take You Here
by Martha Carlson-Bradley
were letterpress printed from handset
Kennerley metal type,
then sewn and bound by hand.
Design and Labor
by Gary Metras.

Adastra Press

CLICK HERE TO ORDER THIS BOOK


 
If I Take You Here

This poetry collection offers extraordinary, specter-like memories to readers who pass through various rooms in the house of the narrator's grandfather, a house that has been torn down, but still exists in memory.  Articles, sounds, and physical sensations are sometimes ghostlike, sometimes tangible, sometimes so simple and familiar they are reminiscent of every grandfather. 

As readers move from room to room, they are not so much transported to the past, as to a space where the past exists in the present, a space where the dead and their belongings exist concurrently with the living. And, as such, here is a book that delivers the full experience; for the book itself has been handset, sewn and bound by hand, and has the authentic look and feel of something out of the past. The book, itself, might well be on the shelves of memory.

The first poem in this series brings the reader to the back door where the narrator calls,
 
  Is anyone home? Can I come in?

Then the reader is brought to a land of memory

 
  The outer edges the first to go,

the place that memory makes
has trouble staying whole—


Many of the  images provided are specters that move around:  "metal coat hangers sway" and "curtains lift in the breeze," the sound of a family that "breathes in its sleep" can be heard.
 

  While canisters rearrange themselves—
 coffee, sugar, salt—

 an occasional table on slender legs
corrects itself all afternoon,


But there is nothing "spooky" or scary about this visitation. Rather the tone of these poems is ethereal, airy, spiritual.  Martha Carlson-Bradley explains, "...the house becomes a kind of anteroom between the living and the dead. We don't exactly get our loved ones back, but we have the sensation that they're close by."

Readers who have lost a love one will understand how well these poems capture that feeling, as they move through—one room at a time— examining small objects, hearing breath, voices, and wind.
 

  Hands of cards face down on the table,
a shot glass is lying, knocked on its side.


We, the living,  often look at photos of dead loved ones, and they suddenly become present to us. Photos in this spectral house serve that purpose.
 


   
Second by second,
      the laughing group of sisters
  fades in its frame


and, later, a look through a photo album:
 

  Two little boys, pressed flat
in the album of black pages,

wait on a shelf in a house
no longer standing.

They keep still for the camera,
brothers a few months

shy of death; and one will rest
his hand—like this—
on the younger one's shoulder


This house, its items, its family members, its perpetuity, exist  like the Platonic forms. In ancient Greece, for some, the forms were more real than matter. There is something so tangible about the tour the reader takes through the house, that it seems the memory of the house is the actual house.  And, more than that, Carlson-Bradley's use of the first person in these poems makes the home our home. She is a master of tone, a poet with access to the suspended space of ideas, and the land of the forms.

This small chapbook is a pleasure all around, an indescribable experience where the past becomes the present, where ideas become real, and where the reader visits a house that no longer exists.


Mary Ann Sullivan
September 23, 2011