The poems in Elizabeth Morgan’s first full-length collection celebrate the joy and confront the contradictions of human relationships, the heart’s capacity to expand with love or contract with sorrow and pain. In a poetic voice that combines confidence and rigorous honesty with vulnerability, and simplicity of expression with complexity of powerful emotion, Morgan offers us a singular vision of a life in process, sensitive to its own growth in understanding and awareness.
These poems have a vital sensuality that evokes the artist’s delight in the moment and in her medium. In “Island Life,” Morgan sees unusual possibilities in a ordinary chore.
Between two birches on a hill
I hang out the clothes and pretend
I’m a sailor’s wife
Because as I wrestle
the wet double sheets to the line
they remind me of sails
and when the frayed rope dips
with the weight of the sheets
I can see the boats in Casco Bay.
From “Island Life” published in Parties by Elizabeth Seydel Morgan. Copyright © 1988 by Elizabeth Seydel Morgan. All rights reserved.
In these poems, there is evidence of an invisible and yet irresistible force that brings us closer together. Paradoxically, however, it is the same force that drives us into loneliness, isolation, and sometimes despair. In “Ways We Come Apart,” Morgan writes:
“At the seams” suggests a remedy:
a stitch in time might save us.
Growing apart is sadder, so slow,
so gradual it can slip your attention the way the Earth never jerks itself out
from under your feet, yet moves,
is moving right now, away from where
you think it stands.
From “Ways We Come Apart” published in Parties by Elizabeth Seydel Morgan.
Copyright © 1988 by Elizabeth Seydel Morgan. All rights reserved.
Morgan’s poems reveal their author in a variety of roles—wife, lover, mother, friend. In a particularly haunting and pwerful sequence, a woman examines her relationship with her mother. Other poems deal with the relationship between self and nature, especially the contradictions between nature and culture. In “Neighobrhood,” Morgan describes watching helplessly from her window as the neighborhood dogs tear her cat apart, then watching as one of the dogs “trots home next door/ where the family calls him Caleb. / They’ve trained him to come when they whistle, / to leap and catch sticks in midair.”
In all these poems, pain and celebration intertwine, and joy remains the subtext of the deepest pain. In the richness of her material , the richness of her material, the keenness of her perceptions, and the grace of her language, Elizabeth Morgan has given us a remarkable first volume.
A native of Atlanta, Elizabeth Seydel Morgan is the author of four previous poetry collections. Morgan lives in Richmond, Virginia, near her three children and five grandchildren.
Found an Error? Tell us about it.