Three eclipses punctuate this book.
The first is the most recent, and Ann Humphries reminds us that whatever we thought we knew, something about the experience could surprise us, the book thus opening with what "we had not expected." And whatever we wanted to know or learn, the experience was gone before we could grasp it. It may be "A Portrait in Bronze of the Eclipse," but bronze is not solid, it is the evanescent metallic light that limns the scene for a moment, then disappears. It is a moment of perception that is gone before we can capture what it was, what it meant.
The second eclipse is one from her childhood, a memory-like many poems in this book-about family and growing up. But memory here is neither sentimental nor nostalgic. She is aware that unspoken relations stitch every scene, determine how we move through the world and what it offers us. In this poem, we see small local lives lit and dimmed by histories both personal and public. Over and over Humphries offers little stories in which family, geography, catastrophe, nation are gravities that may push us together or pull us apart. What happens far away-in time or space-casts a shadow on what is near.
In last eclipse of the book, in 1918, an artist tries to capture that fleeting perception of the eclipse, tries to capture in paint what photographs fail to record. To see differently is to see more accurately.
In all of these, of course, we are mindful of warnings not to look too close or too long-staring at the sun can make you blind. Threaded through the book are poems about coming to terms with blindness. Humphries insists that she is "Fine with blind" late in the book, but over and over she demonstrates that that vision is more than what we see-that we may know who we are and where we are by touch and sound, by friendship and family, and by memory, the distant sun that lights this book.
This is a book of resilience and beauty-and love, there is so much love in this book. There are poems of bracing directness and delicate description. I love the economy of her language, how a portrait can be sketched in one line, how straightforward language can carry unspoken cargoes of meaning, how the loss of something is not darkness but a moment that may limn the world around us with its rippling, unexpected light.
Columbia, South Carolina