What Feeds Us by Diane Lockward
In Diane Lockward’s collection of poems What Feeds Us fruit takes on many forms: the miracle of an artichoke in New Jersey, bliss in blueberries, people as pickles, the pear as a seducer, comfort, wanting, nourishment, all cooked up in a collection with quark and zest, the likes of a “pine cone gone awry.”
Lockward often times has a playful command of language, other times an implacable manner in shifting tones. As the reader peels away through the poems, moving deeper and deeper towards the heart, we face her fears, her cancers buried inside, rotting the poet from the inside out. Source memories and situations that have spawned earlier poems in the book recursively come back, fleshed out now as startling moments of a dark childhood — the roots of this collection feeding the book, fueling the language. It is not to say that the entire forty-five poems are bitter, colored by dark anxieties, but the organization of the collection as a whole is meant to make the past a revelation of the constructed present — what got us here is what we are — and just under the surface of our frail skin time shifts to color us:
Piece by piece, the artichoke came apart,
the way we would in 1959, the year the flower buds
of the artichokes in my father’s garden bloomed
without him, their blossoms seven inches wide
and violet-blue as bruises.
These tone shifts punctuate the poems, showing us again and again how food can consume us and how we can be consumed by food:
I shrivel and grow soft and must be peeled
and chopped, my seeds cast off,
and am tossed in a pot for sauce, beaten
and most horribly mashed with wooden spoon
Lockward’s vision of nature nurtures fruits in many strange forms. Poems are found in lost bicycles, classroom matchmaking, and motherhood is explored as children are constructed from kits or bought off the Internet. Ever buzzing in this collection is the presence of bees, dropping ideas, stinking skin, making the body crawl, haunting the memories of the poet — a pure love-hate relationship linked to her father in “Showdown with the King Bee:”
You come to me in nightmares,
huge and hairy, hanging over my bed,
waiting for me to sleep.
Nature is not perfect, and neither is Lockward’s past (one poem is titled “They Weren’t June and Ward Cleaver”) but crafted into this collection are moments that blossom:
My avocado dangles from
a tree, lifts its puckered face to the sun, pulls
all that light inside. Praise it for being small,
misshapen, and durable. Praise it for
the largeness of its heart.
These are the times when Lockward truly feeds us, “The lawn filled with dandelions, / Because weeds meant he was gone,” and the book bursts with reverence and strength sprouting from a nature not perfect, but real.
Christopher Tiefel is a noun & verb collector & organizer. A poet working as a freelance editor & writer, Chris has discovered that his favorite word is steep. In June he attended the Juniper Writing Institute after graduating from Kutztown University with a degree in English/Professional Writing. While at Kutztown he managed the literary magazine Shoofly & also received the Raymond Ford award for poetry, & the Mary S. Kittle award for social & environmental justice. Now engaged, Chris is working on a chapbook & a catalog of this work can be found at Treefull, a collaborative poetry blog updated maybe regularly.
Works by Christpher Tiefel
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BLOG: Live @ PEN World Voices
REVIEW: What Feeds Us by Diane Lockward