Dawn Stram’s collection of poems, Hiatus, is divided into eight sections that start at the number eight and count down to one, which gives the book a gentle feeling of suspense, a poetic countdown to something urgent that is both the end and a beginning.
Stram is in the stage of life in which, according to the book’s back cover, she has four great-grandchildren; not surprisingly, the poems are often driven by vivid memories, or fragments of memories, with vivid everyday details, as in the poem “6 years from pocatello” in which the speaker recounts how “ed bought a carton of Gauloise for helene because she / liked them, and I smoked in front of my mother / because she loved you both…”. These moments are intimate because we aren’t given an explanation about who ed or helene were; we’re just thrust into the fleeting scene.
Another effective authorial choice, creating intimacy and a nakedness to the voice throughout, is Stram’s use of nearly all lower-case letters, general lack of punctuation, and the use of “&” and slashes and small indents within lines to indicate pauses and shifts. These decisions work with the gently erotic, almost shy voice in many of the poems, especially those in the second person, as in the poem “phantom,” which has characteristically short lines: “you seem / to be // a honeycomb / filled // with a sweetness / that i hunger / for”.
While perhaps not as gripping as it might be, Hiatus is an ardent collection that spills over with memories and the wonder of re-discovery, as in the final poem “hello charlie,” which contains the stanza, “and last nite / searched the / closet bottoms / until the volumes / of my past / spilled out / and i began / re-reading”. This book is written for those who appreciate the sensibilities of a free-spirited woman with the wisdom of several decades under her belt.
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