Pinkie Gordon lane, Louisiana’s poet laureate, has created in Girl at the Window a volume of poetry stitched together by love of place, love of language, and love of family, a volume both intimate and generously welcoming. The logic of the poems is lyrical, rather than narrative, but this poet’s lyric is large enough to include a five-year-old child’s memory of violence, a trip to the bootlegger’s with a father likened to Ulysses, and in a prose poem, memories of a mother who “tumbled around in the tight little from of a house in North Philadelphia, guarding its walls fiercely, as if they belonged to the Smithsonian.”
Her eye is unflinching, but through precision of language and daring emotional leaps, Lane locates beauty even within troubling prospects. Take, for example, a stanza from a suite of poems about the city of Baton Rouge:
Living in Baton Rouge is like
living in the hollow of nowhere.
It is like disappearing into the
night, like darkness, like sun,
like beauty, like song,
like knowing you are
surrounded only by your “self,”
like pouring your loneliness
into a great pool of
The poems of family and friendship are just as strong in their ability to embrace and celebrate paradox. Images of wind and seasonal change simultaneously ground the poems in nature and keep them constantly in flux.
Lewis Simpson, former editor of the Southern Review, has called Girl at the Window “a distinctive achievement in African-American lyric poetry.” Pinkie Gordon Lane’s fourth volume of poetry is also a “survival song/ a hymn of spirit,” in her words “survival Poem,” and a remarkable achievement in the poetry of personal history.
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