Saturday, October 24, 2009

My Iron Spine: A Review

New Zealand writer Helen Rickerby’s second book, My Iron Spine, is poignant, witty, tender, fun, and moving.

Rickerby has organized the book into three sections. The first section, Flashes of déjà vu, is compiled mostly of autobiographical pieces. A charming voice waltzes through the narrative, saying things like, I was playing hungry / hungry hippos / when my grandmother died or I wonder / if the Kingdom of Heaven / is like the Titanic- / not enough lifeboats.

A striking poem in this section is Eleven Fragments of God. Rickerby poetically meanders through questions, stories, and dialogue, pertaining not only to metaphysics, but also to personal grief. Corsets and comforts titles the second section of My Iron Spine. The poet writes in the persona of several women, including Artemisia Gentileschi, Mary Shelley, and Sylvia Plath.

In the third and final section, Laughing at Ophelia, the poet invents a world where she spends time with an array of historical women. Check out a few of the titles: Burning with Joan of Arc, Swimming Lessons with Virginia Woolf, Housework with Linda and Elizabeth Barrett Browning, and Kate Sheppard and I go for a Ride. In the final poem, Rickerby hangs out with New Zealand born writer Katherine Mansfield. The poem, titled Partying with Katherine Mansfield starts out ‘Don’t be a bore,” says Katie / as she pulls me up by my arm / to the dance floor.

At times My Iron Spine is akin to Anne Carson’s The Glass Essay. Rickerby seamlessly layers her work with research, autobiography, and imagination. What more could a reader want from a book of poetry? Rickerby is a poet who celebrates women and their lives. Most of all, she celebrates their voices.

My Iron Spine is available through Amazon.


Helen Rickerby said...

Thanks so much for your review Jennifer! I'm really glad you enjoyed it! Ok, enough exclamation marks now...

Jennifer Sullivan said...

It's such a great book, Helen. You should be extremely happy with it. I can't to read your next one.