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NEAR ALCATRAZ by Liza Wieland; A Review Nov 8, 2005
NEAR ALCATRAZ, Poems by Liza Wieland Cherry Grove Collections; 92 pages; $17.00
Reviewed by Stephen Barile
Liza Wieland is an award-winning writer, known primarily for fiction and short-stories, but in her new book of poems "Near Alcatraz" we find that she is a grand weaver of words, capable and astute in any genre. The collection is divided into three numbered sections, where content seems loosely related to theme. In each poem, Wieland combines different emotional aspects of our lives creating a heart-wrenching power and moments of great and surprising discoveries. If the source of these poems occurs any place, it is from a place of personal history, where her senses guide her and instincts give words to back up her feelings. There is love and corresponding losses. Her poems have extraordinary beauty that expands with each reading in a blossoming of grace and ascendancy. There is a constant memory of place, and the people the writer sets in these places constantly infringe on the abyss of being lost. She toys with the reader, and tests us. One good example is her poem Marriage, where she says:
You will forget the ring or bring the wrong kind: a hoop of fire, a burning cogless wheel.
When the subjects of the poems have something happen to them, whether they love, worship, or depart, the writer understand their dilemma and crafts a dispassionate solution, a clear reality done with style. Readers turn inward for her consoling voice, a steady and sure voice with very little abstraction. Her imagery is stunning bringing disparate parts together in combination. One poem that comes to mind is How To Tell Snow from Locusts In Utah:
If it's daylight out, there's color: snow's white; locusts, black.
There is a profound feeling of motion, Homeric in it's journey. Many poems are moving toward a final separation of relationships with family and lovers. Wieland gives us guidance in subtle ways. We as readers have very little searching to do to find the important, an example is in the poem A Conversation Near Alcatraz:
They are on their way to Alcatraz, each has only just learned the other's name, but is unable to say it.
There is motion and growth that may end in death or departure leaving us wonderings of Troy's fall. There is humor, the poet laughs at us and with us. Places change, but the locales are firmly grounded. The realities of ourselves are adjusted ever so slightly. The ties of love, sanguinity and passion prevail. As readers, and like Homer, we dwell on the supernatural quality of her weaving. Her poems are the loom, and the fabric, her voice woven broadcloth of superior endowment. Liza Wieland is direct, with the skill of a narrative writer, but obsessive in ferreting out the emotional substance, the "bone marrow" of experience. Her odyssey in poetry contained in "Near Alcatraz" becomes our own spirit quest.