The vortex exists, and poetry is one place to find it. It is a phenomenon that occurs when a single image triggers a memory from personal experience. This is what brings depth to Townsend’s verse. In her debut collection, The Weather and Our Tempers, we find language that is much more dense than it appears on the page. From beginning to end, we are called not only to observe the world through the eyes of the speaker but to bring our own stories to the page. As our personal memories fill in the white space, an extraordinary dialogue unfolds between reader and poem.
Enter the poem, “not the memory of an old woman”: That last morning/in Paris I took a bath/under a fogged window/in the tub I shared/four summers/before with a lover... With this simple observation that can be painful, seductive, or bittersweet, Townsend draws us into a world of provocative details. One can read this excerpt over and over and be drawn to a different image every time. Perhaps the notion of remembering “four summers before” will trigger nostalgia. Maybe the image of a “fogged window” will bring you to a place of dreams unfulfilled. Or perhaps the idea of a morning in Paris will inspire memories of an unforgettable trip. These are poems that will morph with you—poems that invite you to celebrate the full spectrum of our shared humanity.
Townsend’s collection is one that speaks to our ever-changing state of mind—a state of mind that is mirrored by the poet’s overarching metaphor of the weather. She writes in the poem, “the weather & our tempers”: yesterday a rainbow bent a corner/over a harbor crammed with sails//today, suggestions of a hurricane... The implications of her imagery remind us of the fleeting nature of satisfaction and desire, happiness and fear. As fickle as the weather, we are bound to remain anything but complacent. This is a truth that Townsend continues to address in her piece, “same old shaken bare”:
we’re liable to long for fame
and fear insignificance over
and over, fear gain and crave
loss, confounding and reversing
until one day in May or maybe
November we see-we’d
sooner be shaken bare than go
the same old same old ways again.
Epiphanies lie embedded in Dominique Townsend’s observations of the natural world, and they find their way into the speaker’s memories. The Weather and our Tempers is written with swift brushstrokes of detail, quickly immersing us into another time and place which, in turn, can lead to something unexpected. There are no promises about the depths to which you will go when you open yourself to these poems. – Joanne Mallari