Horizons: Poems by Nancy Dillingham
(Stone Ivy Press trade paper, 2016, 51 pages, $10, www.oldmountainpress.com, distributor. Cover painting by Fleta Monaghan.)
Poet Nancy Dillingham reads from her works at the West Asheville Library, 942 Haywood Rd., Asheville, 2 p.m., Sat., Apr. 2, 2016; AND at Malaprop's Bookstore, Cafe, 3 p.m., Sun., Apr. 3 (254-6734). Call 250-4750.
Another enjoyment from Nancy Dillingham—a chapbook of 50 pages, in which she shows herself to be the master of the line break. In the poem, “Wedding Crasher,” we immediately come upon someone, “Hands in pockets/ feet planted// she takes her stand/ beside the potted fern.” It’s a simple poem, a little portrait of the crasher, whose view we then get: “the bride valiant/ in voluminous white// the groom pale/ but determined// the preacher pink-faced/ and lame, hiccupping// the family curious/ but in its cups// champagne/ bubbling.”
There’s a little disappointment with the last line. The image is fine, humorous; but because it needed to be two lines, we get an atypical non-additive last line. We know that champagne bubbles. But maybe it’s good because “bubbling” is a funny word. Still, look at the other lines: each one can be savored on its own. That’s something that’s even harder to do when one is writing a narrative and serious poem, such as “Legend.”
“Sixteen-year old Catherine Stevens/ succumbed to young/ Hudgpeth’s charms,” the poem begins. If written as two lines instead of three, that opening would qualify as an E.A. Robinson verse, as it dances along on trochees and iambs. However, making “succumbed to young” stand by itself derives more fun from the sounds, and creates the cliffhanger, “young what?” at the end of the line. The answer is “Hudgpeth’s charms,” with Hudgpeth not being a name that sounds as if it would go with charm.
This may sound like over-analysis, and it would be if I kept going with it; but the point is to show how much playfulness there is in Dillingham’s word chamber.
Catherine, by the way, followed Hudgpeth to Texas, had a child on the road, discovered her husband’s betrayal, had him jailed, headed back, “married a second time/ to a Confederate soldier named/ Carson who died in the war// left her with six children/ one yet unborn// married a third time/ to Alfred Dillingham/ of Big Ivy.” That’s where all that history is headed: home. We then get a portrait of settled Catherine, and it packs a meaningful punch. It’s strange to look at a staid, flower-loving churchwoman and come to realize her radical past.
Many of the poems in “Horizons” are occasional, the makings of a dreamy, wry, craftsperson tossing off favors; and many are anthologizable.