Book Review: Fall in re: Verse

Raking up some of the season's poetry collections

Fall in re: Verse

Instant Winner

by Carrie Fountain
Penguin Press, 96pp., $20 (paper)

The moment of stasis at a stoplight, that common moment of feeling trapped by time and municipal manipulation of traffic patterns, when your forward motion is checked and you're held in that extended pause that always feels longer than it ought (especially when you're alone in the car) and the act of not driving shifts one's mental gears from what's outside the vehicle to what's inside (radio volume, AC temp, snugness of seatbelt, etc.) – that daily delay we all know well makes a couple of appearances in this new collection by Austin poet Carrie Fountain (both times at intersections along Congress, curiously enough, one of which she deems "endless"). Though they come and go quickly – unlike Fountain herself in her car, apparently – these moments best capture for me what's going on inside the poems of Instant Winner: an interruption in the restless flow of life to consider what being is.

In these richly ruminative gems, Fountain will be on some road she's traveled in life – as a daughter, as a reckless young woman, as a wife, mother, neighbor, pet owner, poetry teacher, seeker of spiritual truth – when something occurs to make her hit the brakes and hold in place briefly, a lull that makes space for her to contemplate where she's been, how she came to be there, and where she truly wants to go. The stoplight may be as mundane as trolling for a parking space at the grocery store, seeing her cat in a neighbor's yard, or giving her baby her first taste of avocado, but it invariably spurs Fountain to dive deep into the mysteries of existence: the strange choices of the past, made by you or others; the life that "came from a far, unseeable/ place, a source/ that can not be traced"; a yearning to connect with God but a sense that such a connection is beyond her grasp. She rarely resurfaces with answers – or the answers she seeks, at least – but Fountain always returns with a potent appreciation for this material world, which she describes in lines that pulse hot and crimson with feeling: bees "thrusting/ their sugar-fat bodies into my elderly neighbor's/ cherry blossoms"; the dove that hit her office window "leaving a perfect silhouette in dust/ and down and fat flecks of bright red blood"; "the way/ the day opens its wet blue/ petals, then whitens/ in the center and falls off/ heavily into night."

Carrie Fountain may find life mystifying, but Instant Winner reveals how much she loves it, even "in the car/ waiting out the endless light at the corner/ of MLK and Congress," because it's there, in that pause, that her baby "suddenly says: Song Mommy song now."

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