Poems & Essays

10 Oct

Review of Monica Flegg’s Poetry Book Somewhere in the Cycle

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How glorious to see the world through the eyes of Monica Flegg in her thoughtfully written collection of poems, Somewhere in the Cycle. Throughout the book we see her making meaning of her life through acute and often tender observation of the nature and people around her, culminating in a deep love for family, community, and place.

The natural environment of Nantucket is such a part of the speaker that a compelling embodiment of or aligning with nature occurs in several poems. In “Homing,” she finds solidarity with the snowy owl, “The snowy owl and I / have site fidelity / Nantucket.” In “Somewhere in the Cycle,” she writes, “Poems penetrate / my hollow bird bones, / cawing blood / from every cloud.” As readers we grow to know and love the land while also growing to know and love Nantucket life.

A similar alignment or connection is drawn with the local culture and community. Music recitals, knitting circles, and tourists in their “navy blazers” and “unfaded swimsuits” stick out as much as the invasive species. In the poem, “The Knitters,” Flegg writes of a “clutch of women gathering to knit.” I found myself drawn into this poem. “Valentine mochas and Miles Davis / sweeten the Bean this / crystal-bright February night / while I wile away an hour / during my daughter’s orchestra practice.” Many of her poems, like this one, are filled with these lovely sounds, rhythms, and details pulling us in and making us feel like we too are wiling away an hour with her. Later in the poem, Flegg checks the headlines of the local paper, but as with much of this book, the rest of the world feels distant, and we are kept firmly in the presence and importance of this place and the life it offers.

One of my favorite things about this book is the way Flegg writes of family. As a mother, I found her humor, reflection, and tenderness to ring true to the experience of motherhood. I have no doubt other mother-readers will feel the same. In “Rise” her son texts her from the skating rink outside to make sure hot cocoa is ready, even though he could have just waved as Flegg is watching out “the kitchen window, / throne of motherhood.” In “Morning Ritual,” she combines the surreal “the bird’s nest” in her left hip “a tangle of nerve endings gone haywire,” with acute details from the real world, her “Golden” awaiting “his mini Milk-Bone,” to lead us out into a “field full of birdsong and snow.” Even when Flegg writes of the so-called annoyances of family life, “Glass ornaments and children go together like cake and horseradish,” we can feel the humor and tenderness. We are sure there is nowhere Flegg would rather be than right here with her people. This combination of humor, irony, and love for family creates a delicate balance that permeates the whole book.

Readers will relish Flegg’s defense of the unsung or underappreciated. In the poem “Perspective,” she writes, “The only thing worse than a rainy day with a house full of guests on Nantucket is a house full of guests on a rainy day anywhere else.” In “Quiet as Quakers” she praises vultures, asking “Has there / ever been a bird / with a more undeserved / PR problem?” She finds a gift in the obviously beautiful landscape and close-knit community, but also in those unsung or under-sung aspects of family life and life on Nantucket.

In “Watery Edges,” Flegg writes, “People who live on islands / tend to like water borders, / which are really just / tidings and invitations.” Somewhere in the Cycleis both a tiding and an invitation to us as readers to explore the life and place that are “milk and honey” for Flegg. We are right there with her in the midst of family life, changing seasons, and the returning tide. For her there is “No Other Place,” and for 45 pages, we feel the rest of the world fade away.

 

Stacy Boe Miller is a mother, jewelry artist, writing consultant, and third year MFA Creative Writing candidate at the University of Idaho. Some of her work can be found in Driftwood Press, Frontier Poetry, Midwestern Gothic, and Mothers Always Write, among other journals. Her work has been nominated for both a Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net.

 

 

 

Monica Flegg lives on Nantucket Island where she walks dogs of various breeds, reads poetry of all creeds, and generally has a lot of fun. Her writing has been published in numerous journals including, Mothers Always Write, Unbroken and Ruminate. She’s currently working on her second chapbook, Dear Sephora. Somewhere in the Cycle can be purchased here: https://www.amazon.com/Somewhere-Cycle-Monica-Flegg/dp/1949229025

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