Intimate Poetry that Sheds Light on Us All
Good poetry enables one to see the world a bit differently. Great poetry can enable one to perceive their relationship to the world a bit better. And once in a while, one happens upon a phenomenal collection that illuminates a greater understanding of oneself. Lucinda Marshall has gifted such a collection in Inheritance of Aging Self (Finishing Line Press, 2021). This collection looks aging and demise squarely in the eyes and, with powerful imagery and succinct language, explores a woman’s place across years, across generations, and into the center of what it is to be an individual, both alone and as a woman connected to those who came before her. Marshall manages all of this even-handedly, without undue sentimentality, to which her themes could easily lend themselves. Instead she offers essential and revealing snapshots, descriptions, and connections that feel intimate and personal, but speak to necessary, universal themes.
On the surface, many poems in Inheritance of Aging Self feel wistful, even tragic. And this reviewer did shed a few tears while reading. But what seems more significant is the reassurance one experiences when met with words that resonate as true and reflect one’s own climate. Using images of mountains, deserts, the moon, Marshall creates a beautiful atmosphere in which to explore themes of loss and self-discovery. She deals with the dehumanizing value of medical procedures on patients, the death of mother and grandmother, and with the important theme of being oneself, unapologetically. At times, a reader may not be able to clearly discern whether a poem is of fantasy or reality, but that matters little. Truth often resides in places beyond facts. In “One More Dance” she describes, “A sliver of moon / with wry expression… where she sways to music… // until the moon disappears / behind a cloud, and / her world goes dark again.” Such gorgeous lines seem to challenge the reader to live, to live while time remains.
Perhaps my favorite poem from this collection, at least on my most recent reading, is “14 Down”.
Sunday crossword puzzle
in black and white,
do I know this word?
did I know it?
present more so.
I don’t do crosswords, but this little piece articulates better than I have been able to, my angst around aging, my race with mortality to create, and my urgency to get words down, while I can.
From a place of what feels like a never-ending state of mourning, that I suspect many people relate with in these past couple of years, Marshall provides context to absorb grief and offers comfort in universal understandings, as in her poem “What Remains.”
The death rattle lurks
in the shadows of her bones,
waiting for its time to be heard.
In the stillness of the breath pause,
just before the next inhalation rises in protest,
she wonders what it feels like to be ashes,
what part of who she is will be left
in the fine, gritty powder as it is absorbed
Back into the body memory of the universe.
This collection is filled with such expansive thinking around death that both spikes the reader’s own grief and offers solace in well-expressed feeling and intricate understanding.
I have not independently come to terms with my own failed midlife crisis, nor successfully articulated what peace has been made between myself and my younger selves. Marshall’s collection accomplishes some of that for me. I imagine every woman will find herself in Marshall’s work and not in the way we see ourselves in vague self-help quotes designed to pick us up, but in radical ways through a discerning, gifted writer courageously sharing intimate moments and insights. I imagine men too will benefit from clarity in perspective on self through changes in age, human frailty, and loss when reading Inheritance of Aging Self, although the specific and important focus on the feminine seems essential to this important work.
Kristin Kowalski Ferragut teaches, plays guitar, hikes, and supports her children in becoming who they are meant to be. She is author of the full-length poetry collection Escape Velocity (Kelsay Books, 2021) and the children's book Becoming the Enchantress (Loving Healing Press, 2021). Her poetry has appeared in Beltway Quarterly, Nightingale and Sparrow, Bourgeon, Mojave He[Art] Review, Anti-Heroin Chic, Fledgling Rag, and Little Patuxent Review among others. For more information see her website: https://www.kristinskiferragut.com/
Lucinda Marshall is the author of Inheritance Of Aging Self (Finishing Line Press, 2021). Her poetry has appeared in Global Poemics, Broadkill Review, Foliate Oak, The Rising Phoenix Review, and Poetica, among others, as well as in the anthologies "Poems in the Aftermath" (Indolent Books), "You Can Hear The Ocean" (Brighten Press), "Is It Hot In Here Or Is It Just Me?" (Beautiful Cadaver Project), and "We Will Not Be Silenced" (Indie Blu(e) Publishing). Her writing has received awards from Waterline Writers, Third Wednesday, and Montgomery Magazine. Marshall lives in Gaithersburg, MD where she is the founder of DiVerse Gaithersburg Poetry Reading and the Gaithersburg Poetry Workshop, and also helped create the Local Poets collection at Quince Orchard Library. In addition, she has served as a volunteer mentor for the Gaithersburg Teen Writing Workshop, part of a program run by the Maryland Writers' Association. Marshall is also an award-winning artist who has worked in a variety of mediums, including her most recent work in improvisational quilting.