Flight Patterns
JoAnne McFarland
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Buy *Flight Patterns: Poems* by JoAnne McFarland online

Flight Patterns: Poems
JoAnne McFarland
Gold Leaf Books
53 pages
rated 4 of 5 possible stars
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Right off the bat, I love the front cover of this collection of poems – beautiful shades of yellow and green with repeated pictures of a bird and a painting easel – immediately giving the reader a sense of order and cohesion before the book is even opened. Even though it is not a precursor to the writing, it does convey a mood which I feel prepares one for the reading of the poems inside.

Flight Patterns is a lean, clean collection of poetry which leads the reader into the author’s landscape of New York and its boroughs. The book is divided into two sections: the first ‘Signs’ and the second ‘Men’.

‘Signs’ consists of seventeen poems, and the first one, ‘Brooklyn Caskets,’ takes us into the writer’s everyday world, where everyday walking and talking and gawking take place. There’s a beautiful section where she describes walking by the casket factory and its workers, who

Once upon a time they said
           Come here Sweet Thing
           or other words
         warm and full of vowels
Here we see the writer living life, passing those preparing others for death.

Another example of eloquent writing is the poem ‘I Break A Dish,’ a homily on an eroding marriage with these startling lines:

Where you sit
light through the blinds
cuts you to pieces
so that you are
strips of a man
instead of the whole man
I married
There is the sparse poem ‘Green-Skirted Man,’ which conjures up enough backstory in the mind to fill a novel. This poem raises questions about the two men on the street and what their lives are really about. In very few words, the author makes us want to know more about the ordinary and extraordinary lives we come across in our travels.

‘Men’ consists of twenty-two poems and begins with the sensual ‘The Romance of Bark’, where the lines

I stroke an oak in the Brooklyn Botanical Gardens

It is years since I’ve allowed myself this intimacy


floats away casual and unanswered
evoke feelings of longing and desire.

Then there is the concise ‘Thicket’, an achingly poignant minute slice-of-life piece about a mother’s immeasurable love for her daughter.

‘A-Train Prophet’ speaks of man in the mess he’s in because of man, of how the absolutes of right and wrong are scorned at in modern society so that the effects from the causes shouldn’t be any surprise as voiced in the words

…This is the end product Just came
off the assembly line This is what you got
JoAnne McFarland’s work is precise and exact in painting pictures of her environment and the people in it, but her work does something else: it allows the readers’ thoughts to move beyond the writer’s world into their own personal world, to fit the poems meanings to their own particular situations.

The only problem I have with the book are the poems ‘Overheard’ and ‘Slice’, written in some street-rap vernacular or rhythm, which do not mesh well with the rest of the poems in the book. What is one person’s poetry isn’t necessarily another’s, and these do not, in my opinion, constitute ‘poetry’ in the sense the rest of the poems in the book do.

But in saying that, it’s been said that ‘two out of three ain’t bad.’ I say ‘thirty-seven poems out of thirty- nine ain’t bad, either.’

Originally published on Curled Up With A Good Book at www.curledup.com. © Michael Ugulini, 2007

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