Reviews of TITCH
Reviews of Titch:
In Titch, Kate Marshall Flaherty reaches the high point so far in her unique poetic career of travelling deeper into the world and into eternity through each grain of sand she encounters. In agile verse that truly is a “walking to arrive at rhythm’s beginning”, she meets with many a salmon, canoe, promise, rock, axe, erotic conversation, disabling seizure, blueberry, birdhouse, snowy day, soft-boiled egg, and session of ecstatic star-gazing. Her verse loves the small that is great. In this book, she turns especially to the titch, the little that remains: “I sniff the rot and sweet / of May’s decay and promise”. The poet of Titch is one of those who can truly look on things—even scarred things—and say, with enchantment, “Your beauty is worthy / of love-making”. — A. F. Moritz
The poems in Kate Marshall Flaherty’s sixth collection, Titch, abide between sacred light and enduring beauty—scarred, whole and restored. These are poems that face the world—its natural wonders and human challenges, with strength and reverence; that openly welcome a reader in, and never forget to breathe. The title of the collection, an informal British word meaning ‘small’—and printed in large uppercase letters on the cover—captures the wide wrap of Flaherty’s poetic embrace.
Fifty-nine conscientiously composed poems, including links to seven video versions. Six of these are beautifully produced in collaboration with her son Gabriel and composer/filmmaker Mark Korven; the seventh is a glorious evocation, by filmmaker Lori H. Ersolmaz, of the ethereal piece “Practicing Like Water” whose lines shimmer with beatific élan: “Have we been floating with angels? / Practicing for death, / in sleep? / Are we slipping into a pool / where dreamer and dream are one? / Are we each a cup of water / poured into the sea?”
The collection is arranged in seven sections—the title of each drawn from a piece that highlights a key thematic concern. “gills wide for breath”—the title of the first section—is drawn from the poem “salmon,” in which Flaherty writes herself into the river-skin of the fish and announces her inborn determination to prevail in the difficult upstream swim of life; “i can do this,” she announces—kin to the fish.
The title of section two, “the spin came to a stop,” is drawn from the poem “Being Unmade,” which tells of a time Flaherty’s “dad rented Paddle to the Sea / on an old metal projector wheel for [her] basement birthday for the whole class.” It was when her
father “played the film backwards, / in a strange slow language, / like marbles in the mouth … that the clapping was real / and the final celluloid strip circle- / snapped.” The poems in this section address the end of things, “impermanence,” “the salt content of tears,” and “suffering”— in Flaherty’s characteristic mode of wistful, plainspoken steadfastness.
Section three, “habitat” contains sixteen pieces that center lovingly on family: brother, daughter Annie, mother, sons Gabriel and Locky. Here the voice is urgent, immediate, protective, always loving: “… stand up for yourself … Show some backbone”; “there is a place of safety”; “I know healing can come after trauma.”
The fourth section, “conquering softened,” looks to the “boneyard” and the resilience of the body and says, “I see the axe in acceptance … Resentment is like drinking hemlock … I can be flexible … Let’s remember the oak and cypress. / Standing side by side … they both make equal shade.”
Section five, “something lighter about to lift off,” comprises ten poems that speak to things that are “hovering,” “thin[ning],” “letting go,” “readying for liftoff.” Like the “Cowbird,” clouds, “Dad’s baseball cap,” “a great blue heron,” music, “The Dead.” — Elana Wolff
This week, my copy of Kate Marshall Flaherty’s new book TITCH (Piquant Press) arrived, a thought-provoking and enjoyable read indeed. What an intriguing surprise at the bottom of certain poems to find printed a URL to their audio-visual recreations online.
Sitting down at the computer, I was glad to have read the poems beforehand when my focus was solely on the words themselves and the images their own power inspired. What impact, I wondered, would a video narrated by Flaherty have on those images? How would combinations of words, voice, music, pictures, and even aspects of dance interplay?
I was not disappointed. For instance, in “Canoe” the serene music and filmed scenery of northern lake and shore easily enlarged my original vision of an actual landscape, with Flaherty’s gentle voice backgrounded more as a guiding echo. In “Rose Quartz”, the poet’s persona was foregrounded as she moved through and reflected on the ancient rock surrounding her. “Jack Pine” incorporated two more arts: the Group of Seven Tom Thomson painting formed a backdrop, before which an Indigenous dancer interpreted Flaherty’s words as gestures. “Practicing Like Water” was also different, combining abstract images, music, and questions not as literal mirrors of the physical, but as evocations of the state of half-waking. Each multifold experience was unique and in marked contrast to the singular directness of a live poetry reading onstage.
On Flaherty’s web page there is much more to enjoy but also to think about. What is the potential for other elements from art forms to be mixed and balanced with words to create an even larger poetry? — Susan Ioannou
Kate Marshall Flaherty’s poems —many of them inspired by a reverence for nature — are charged with imaginative gusto. The reader comes upon lines like these and marvels:
when purple-pink primulas
hermit themselves, genuflect
beneath snow-tamped earth.
Poems such as the emotionally charged “Axe,” and “Cap” — a moving tribute to the poet’s father — make this a notable collection. — Kenneth Sherman