Review: Folding Water

Review: Folding Water

by Martin Ott


Folding Water has an evocative name that hints at both mysteries beneath the surface and someone actively participating in churning these up for the reader. In this poetry chapbook from Rose Auslander, the author uses metaphors of water –

from the puddle on the floor of a train in the opening poem Transport to the closing poems Marzipan Rain and the budding of trees in the final poem Hope: Only for Fools – to provide us with a channel through a collection that meanders from Brooklyn to Russia and Tasmania, and from family life/love/loss to global concerns.

Auslander is at her best when she combines imagination with her life as a daughter/lover/mother. Consider this opening from the poem Folding Water

According to my father,
there was always a right way and a wrong way
to do everything. For example,
folding water.

Of course, he’d never give us a clue
what to do. But no excuses:
All water was to be folder,
including ice, although I found the technique
to be somewhat challenging,
involving chisels and sometimes
a monkey.

The combination of day-to-day life and the world of imagination is intoxicating. Also, we never feel like we are not grounded or that the author is playing tricks. Auslander combines love and loss throughout the chapbook, and it leads to memorable lines such as the final one in the poem about her daughter and grandmother So I Hold

So many babies, so many ghosts, so many singing fish.

Auslander also explores the passage of time and her poems include train schedules and backward jumps to combine her memories of the past with what is pressing in present time. She also is aware of traveling and the passage through place/time as in the opening lines from Travel Advisory:

Carry nothing.
Leave your watch, your keys, your IDs.
A baby is sleeping in a stroller
gently pushed in and out of traffic.
A woman is pulling over.
Her car is crushed by a tree.
The baby is fine.

This movement through pain and joy seems core to Auslander’s best poems. If I had any critique it would be for the inclusion of a handful of poems that veer toward sentimentality. In her poems Lunch with Mother, This, Baby Steps and Marzipan Rain, Auslander’s tight focus on touching moments with her family may not play to her strengths of being able to magically weave the specificity of her own life into a larger social fabric. All of her poems have heart, which I believe far too many writers shy away from. For Auslander I believe it is a matter of finding the right balance.

I recommend this chapbook, and thoroughly enjoyed the journey. I look forward to reading more of Auslander’s work in the future.

-refers from Rose Auslander‘s contributor page

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