Wounds and Meteors: A Review of Electric Urgency by Maryanne Stahl (Pudding House Publications)
by Amy George
By the time you have finished reading this chapbook, a lump that feels familiar has settled in your throat, just above the beating instrument known as your heart. The sense of longing is unmistakable: the ripped filaments of broken dreams dangle in your mind along with the eerie notion that someone has written down feelings you have felt, but never faced up to.
By the time you have finished reading this chapbook, the universe will have exploded in your mind, and you will have realized that you have colors within yourself and the capacity to take in the world, one winding road at a time.
Welcome to the poetry of Maryanne Stahl.
In her collection, Electric Urgency, each poem is a story or a snapshot from Stahl’s life. We visit her childhood where she finds where the devil lives beneath the porch and creates a May altar of flowers for the Virgin Mary to distract her sister from a raging father. We feel the sting of bruises left by abusive husbands riding in cars, splintering the dashboard with their fists. Finally, we discover a woman who has found that what she discovers inside of her is not ugly or misshapen, but bursts of color and possibility.
In words that are wonderfully condensed for power and yet not too sparse to paint vivid pictures, Stahl introduces us to the uncomfortable places that make us human and also to the beauty of the world around us. It is the wide variety that makes this collection so distinct and such a pleasure to read. For instance, in her poem, Meteor Shower, Stahl writes:
“A shooting star slices the sky directly above me, parts it and then,
like a wound healed, disappears. I make a wish. Another meteor streaks
across the western horizon, another falls from the north. I wish and wish
again, and wishes become prayers.”
We breathe the night air with this dreamer as she continues: “Galileo must have felt this way. I imagine him, dressed in robes, yearning for possibility and finding comfort.”
Then we identify with her longing as she writes: “I try to reach you across time and continents, to send you the sparks.” We hope he feels her touch across the void.
On another continent, a woman leaves a man because she cannot bear living“beneath the twenty-seven tiny shadows of your accomplishments.”A woman dreams of losing a daughter she never bore. A cat, the only remaining memory of a family, is stroked, reminding a person of everyone she has lost. And we are taken to a room:
“He doesn’t see me as I enter the room he fitted as our dungeon, though
his eyes are open. He lies on the stone floor, gazing past me, the blood pooled
around him dry and brown. I sit beside him and once again I explain to him,
now that he has time to listen.”
The power of Stahl’s work is unmistakable; we want to read the book again and we want to put it on the shelf and hide it in the shadows. Like any great work of art, it moves us and shakes us and in the end, we are delighted, horrified, and mesmerized. Most importantly, we realize just how alive we are.
–Amy L. George is the editor of Birds Eye View