Go On by Ethel Rackin
by Emily Bieniek
Ethel Rackin’s second collection of poems, Go On, carries us through time with her pristine impressions of the world, nourishing us with her insights. The brief lyrical poems capture extravagant reflections of nature and the human interaction with such, pausing for moments, but all the while encouraging the reader to carry on their journey.
The title poem guides us directly into this mind space, setting us in twilight after a day spent in the sun. We are still, yet reminded to continue into the night, though sometimes it may feel tiresome:
stay in the park a little longer reading
go down to the water if you like
the emptiness you seek also takes time
Invoking Gertrude Stein and Emily Dickinson, Rackin keeps us in good company for the duration of our journey together. We can see these influences drift in and out of poems like “The Moth” or “Imperialisms,” where Rackin champions Dickinson’s often mysterious use of the em dash.
It isn’t impressive—
the imperious start—
the anxious fix—
there’ torture to it—
the getaway cars
In the middle of Go On, we are brought back to specific points in time through a series of poems Rackin recovered from close to 10 years ago. Here I felt closest to the poet herself:
The stone cairn behind the virgin
reminds me of a night we played outside.
We acted as if getting caught was tantamount
The final poem in the book feels like the perfect advice I might seek from a respected individual, lines that are so simple and clear that they speak volumes beyond the moment.
There Are Flowers
And there is a well
beyond these mills.