Poems of a Divorcee by Merawyn Harrison is a poetry collection that skillfully draws readers into its meditations on the natural world, personal growth, and strong emotions. With an overall positive tone, the narrative voice shares with readers the sense of one who has savored the breadth of life’s joys and sorrows.
The book is divided into seven sections: “Grief and Despair,” “Spring Begins to Return,” “Nature poetry [sic],” “Thoughts on Art,” “Realism,” “Timeless,” and “Haiku.” Throughout, Harrison makes apt use of figurative language, close description, and a wide vocabulary.
Even though the topics are of the ordinary, every day world, Harrison charges objects with complex emotionality, leaving space for readers to contemplate the complexity of human life. Every poem offers something surprising or particularly graceful.
Harrison ends “Port River Gallery,” for example, with a stanza that concludes with a simple action (the narrator heads home), rather than something trite or didactic, which a lesser poet might be tempted to do: “The paintings hang… / Like human hearts wearing thin. / I leave the seaside smells and bright images / And head for my inland home.” While “hearts” are a common motif in amateur poetry, comparing them implicitly to cloth is fresh and evocative.
Harrison addresses a garden in “Goodbye to My Garden,” comparing the various flowers to “bright signals”—an intriguing way to evoke the myriad functions of flowers in both the human and bee or bird world. Then she writes, “a thousand gardens exist within me,” which is a surprising turn. Suddenly this ordinary external world, a home garden, turns prismatic and inward.
Readers looking for formal innovation or edgy critiques of society should look elsewhere. That isn’t what Poems of a Divorcee is about. But that doesn’t mean these are sentimental poems offering cheap solace. Quite the contrary. They have a wise but complicated “steel-blood red” heart of humanity at their core, a sensibility that many poetry fans will appreciate.
Also available in hardcover.