Wednesday, August 1, 2012

A Gentle Asking: A Review of Eve Asks

A Gentle Asking: A Review of Eve Asks by Christine Redman-Waldeyer
Muse-Pie Press, 2011 (50 pages)
ISBN: 9780918453235
Christine Redman-Waldeyer’s chapbook, Eve Asks, is a lyrical journey through everyday life that highlights both the quiet beauty on the surface and the complexities that exist just beneath. The poems are carefully arranged to take the reader by the hand through love, marriage, child-bearing, mothering, and beyond. With emotional honesty, they hit close to home. These poems celebrate who we are as humans, and ask us to dig deeper and examine how we perceive the world around us.

The collection’s first poem illustrates this succinctly. The title “Breast Cancer Survivor” is heavy, but the language of the poem is light, airy, and lyric:

She stays every summer at her shore house

Warm weather in the spring brings her weekends

Her dog waits in the car while she chats

I stop at hello (5).

But as a reader, we can’t just “stop at hello.” We know that beneath the surface of this poem, there is a complicated existence, and that contrast permeates through this entire collection. Waldeyer’s poems show us that the big, heavy topics can be handled with simplicity, honesty, and grace.

Another example of this contradiction is the poem “Endless Summer.” The poem describes “roses // that bloom all summer -- // Hydrangea. Blue or pink,” a flower without thorns that seems to just bloom solely for our enjoyment. A lovely thought, right? The poem ends with a biting conclusion: “…when I cut their precious heads off / arrange them in a vase” (43). With such delicate lyricism, the poems in this collection keep the reader digging deeper and rethinking preconceptions about beauty, gender, and humanity.

Throughout the chapbook, Biblical characters, especially Eve, are introduced and recast through the lens of a contemporary woman. As a reader, I found these characters to be multifaceted and refreshing contrasts to their Biblical counterparts, which, of course, were portrayed through a more patriarchal point of view. In the book’s title poem, “Eve Asks,” the speaker explores the gender roles in the relationship between a modern day Adam and Eve. Adam is asked to “wash and fold the laundry” to “tend / / the children when they cry,” and to “remember / each curve” of her body (18). One cannot help but smile at this thought! It seems as though the gender roles of the past are antiquated, and it’s time to reexamine them. Like “housemaking out of dung,” oppressive definitions gender really need to go (18).

Perhaps my favorite poem in this collection, though, is “Swans in Flight,” a longer poem that meditates on the short life of the “you” the poem is addressed to. The speaker watches a swan on a lake and recounts past memories, imagining “Saint Peter / weighing your good deeds with your bad” and wondering “where … the anchor (laid) of your sexuality?” (36). The poem describes, in exquisite detail, a “lone Swan take flight” as a metaphor for the friend’s afterlife. The swan “hisses like the question hisses now.” The poem ends with a lyrical reflection: “I love her for her slender out-stretched neck, / for her flight in motion” (38).

Though this is a chapbook, Eve Asks asks a lot from its readers. I now look twice at all the surface beauty that exists around me, the big heads of flowers, forbidden blackberries, pieces of driftwood. The best poems ask us to dig deeper into our conceptions of the world around us, and these poems do just that with a gentle, beautiful asking.

 
Christine Redman-Waldeyer founded the journal Adanna in 2011. She currently teaches creative writing, journalism, and literature at Passaic County Community College. She earned her doctorate with a Concentration in Writing from Drew University. Her book publications include Frame by Frame, Gravel, and Eve Asks with Muse Pie Press. She also has been published in Caduceus, Lips, Motif Magazine, Paterson Literary Review, Seventh Quarry, Schuylkill Valley Journal, The Texas Review, Verse Wisconsin, among others. In 2011 she was selected to participate in the Poetry Project founded by Dr. Mary Ann Miller at Caldwell College. She is currently pursuing a doctorate in Education with a focus on Higher Education at Rowan University.



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