Hourglass Museum by Kelli Russell Agodon was the April read for Jessie Carty’s Poetry Book Club — and it was so yummy.
“If you think you are the mermaid, think again.
You are the ocean holding the mermaid afloat,
trying to change the world one dolphin at a time.”
— from the poem “Souvenir Boxes”
Agodon’s poetry explores a variety of themes within Hourglass Museum. As the title suggests, art is an important source of inspiration here (as can also be seen in the long list of notes at the end of the book), with poems referencing great artists such as Frida Kahlo and Andy Warhol. The idea of preservation, via canvass, poem, or as a collection in a museum, of moments captured and held in stasis through artifice and creation are a constant in these poems.
“Dark matter angels mingle over oceans
and bubbling cities filled with unopened jars,
all we had were cupboards and cupboards
— from the poem “A Moment Ago, Everything Was Beautiful”
The outward inspiration of art and museums, is drawn into the personal scope of Agodon’s personal life, both her inner emotional realm and the outer realm of home and family and relationships. This connection between art and home works well, since as human being we often take memories and put them on the shelves of our minds, we collect pieces of anger and store them for later use, attach joy to simple objects, return to each of them again and again, revisit, and Agodon’s poetry reflects this.
“I place solitude in a frame on my desk
and call it, The one I love.”
— from the poem “Line Forms Here”
She explores a variety of emotional states, including depression and loneliness. The language beautifully expresses these emotions and allowed me to connect with them personally. I could see myself in these moments of darkness and in the ways a write approaches such moments, especially through pen. I think these feelings are approachable from a variety of perspectives, allowing many kinds readers to feel them.
“There’s no dessert in the picnic basket,
so I swallow time. My mouth is full
of hands and numbers. I ask for seconds.”
— from the poem “Drowning Girl: A Waterlogged Ars Poetica”
And yet, there is a sense of humor throughout, too, a poking of fun at the supposed importance of depression, so that such darker subjects cannot drag down the reader and instead allow them to explore and transverse the state. It brings a lightness to the poems that makes them great to read.
“I escape disaster by writing a poem with a joke in it:
The past, present, and future walk into a bar — it was tense.”
— from the poem “Sketchbook with an Undercurrent of Grief”
All in all, this was a wonderful collection and, though I own it in digital format, I’m contemplating buying it again in print format as well, just so I can add the tactile sensation to my enjoyment of the book.
“Madness is a meaningful way to exist.”
— from the poem “Menacing Gods: An Abstract”