Entwined: Three Lyric Sequences by Carol Frost
Dip & Weave
reviewed by Natalia Kennedy
Carol is defined as a festive song; frost (even before Robert) was process, covering, and formation. If language can and will illuminate music and technique simultaneously, it often does so in poetry and in the lyric. Author Carol Frost delivers poems in Entwined: Three Lyric Sequences, her recent book from Tupelo Press, that dip and weave into the whimsy, sorrow, and intricacy of buzzing life. Her triptych of poetic yet grounded affairs melds the elevated with the primal, the common with the rare, and the beautiful with the ugly or painful. This collection of poems was written over twenty-five years, nearly my entire life, so bear with me as I attempt to expose some of the effort and wisdom Frost brings forth in carefully wrought language.
The book’s three parts function as their own entities and naturally as well as purposefully meet at various intersections. The “Apiary Poems,” section three, could exist in and for themselves, yet they lean on Frost’s earlier musings. Frost’s middle section, titled “Abstractions,” offers observations, revelations, and questions that could not arise from brief or rushed contemplation. These poems address all matters of life and death from “Lies,” “Laws,” and “Music” to “Nothing,” “Obsession,” and “The Past.” Each abstract topic passes through the mind of the writer as well as the mind of the world before landing—though not settling—on the page. In “Her Beauty,” the female speaker, who expresses herself throughout “Abstractions,” lets physical and natural space, the exterior around her, begin to etch the secret, and in some ways fading, self we are incapable of looking at yet unable to not see.
By now her beauty no longer catches glances like small animals in a gentle snare,
autumn having thinned the light and frozen its blossoms in the field.
Even her looks of imprecation and her frowns seem weak,
and she says fond, foolish things about herself,
about having been once greatly admired, envied, fated—
a Psyche to Venus—and how she loved her husband who gave her pleasure
and was faceless. Better than pretending
indifference—like the heaping snow;
better to say what she by another once had known,
only so secret and withdrawn the way it is in mornings,
in weather, an animal’s fur bristling, a mole skin.
If the book’s first part is a soul’s voyage from dark to light amidst the shoals of Florida’s gulf coast, as her publishers suggest, that journey primes a reader for the next two more intimate sections. Entwined begins with myth, a world embedded in the ancient and the natural, and rolls gently into the more personal and specific. What the speaker has seen and watched over and over with a perceptive eye does not leave as the text builds. Precise vision and craft follow in each poem while Frost’s content moves from the macrocosm of memory and the known to its nearly invisible varieties.
Excerpts from the “Apiary Poems” show a particular mind, or minds, and a much smaller subset of memory and consciousness—thoughts held by only the speaker and perhaps her aging mother. Poem “15” comes soon after a Greek mythology reference, the mention of Lethe in poem “8," but hones in on a discrete line of sight—one separate from that other vast body of knowledge and memory but running legitimately alongside it.
To live without memory is to have each hour
as a pane of air for canvas and the view from a window
to paint: amber-honey cold mornings:
humbled by evening: variation and variation
of ambiguous figments—ziggurat beehive
auroras—flicker and go out. All history
may as well be in these brushstrokes:
the hand has not rested nor the paint dried.
Memory, knowledge, and the necessity of reference foreground the text’s interlocking threads. In whichever poem you are entranced or entwined (haha) Frost is able to evoke an immediate time and its grand overarching passage without loss of the root—that which is overwhelmingly the moment and the momentary. Read each section, each word, each letter for itself, then let pieces fit how they will.