What is it that makes for good poetry? For me, good poetry should be evocative, unsettling, multilayered, and straightforward. Ann Robinson’s Stone Window fits the bill, riding clear and unexpected imagery into the familiar empty bits of the human experience, those points we might, without being spurred to closer examination, simply glide over.
This collection of poetry covers a broad range—from the prosaic “New York Train Station” to the mythical, “Living Among the Gods,” and from the imagination of personified punctuation “A Period Speaks to a Sentence at the Café Reale” to the solidly grounded in history “1957: Central High School.” At first, it may feel unfocused, but Stone Window is united by a strong style and the clarity and unexpectedness of its imagery, painting pictures from unusual perspectives with intensely vivid language and often startling associations, whether of characters, places, or the words used to conjure them. The images are mostly left alone to do the work; a refreshing mark of a skilled poet. Of course, startling is not often comfortable, and the discomfort enacted in the imagery and the language itself works to reflect and emphasize the uncomfortable empty places that the poems delve into.
By “emptiness,” I mean that Stone Window mostly explores a recurring theme of something that is absent, missing, lost, set aside, broken, forgotten, or unknown. None of these conditions is comfortable, but they are very human, real, and present, if emptiness can ever be present, across this broad spectrum of experiences. The act of describing something that is not there is disconcertingly complex and difficult, but well executed in these poems, seeming almost effortless at times. Ultimately, it finds a kind of simple fulfillment in the experiences, and the words themselves, around those emptinesses. It’s a thought-provoking read, available through Small Press Distribution and Barnes & Noble.