Archive for November 14, 2009

In a Flood Year

Because I have read Sara Tracey’s work before, I just knew that her chapbook, Flood Year (Dancing Girl Press), would be fantastic. And I wasn’t disappointed.  Flood Year is a dance between two cousins, a relationship described in the opening poem, “Two Wombs,” as two people close at birth: “We were so small, the nurses/kept us in one crib like twins.”  The poet goes on to explain that “Our mothers found us holding hands,/foreheads pressed together/as if telling secrets.”

And so the scene has been set.  Throughout this slim collection, Tracey explores the bond between the two cousins who are like sisters.  When the beloved Stella moves to Arizona at the age of five, we, as readers, watch the two cousins grow and change.  One cousin seems angry, the other bewildered.  One dyes her “hair blond/eyebrows too, used SPF 60 and wore/long sleeves all summer” while the other lets her boyfriend “trace her tan lines with his tongue.”  The poems seem to slide in and out of their relationship, so that we see the way that both girls grow, the way they both change.

But readers will be sadly mistaken if they believe that this is a work of female angst. Flood Year is also a careful study of place and how place affects us and inspires us.  We understand the poet’s world of Rust Belt Ohio where a person could chronicle a flood, where “ever night/the air was heavy with shit and people/who lived in the ravine were trapped/for three days” and we also see a world where someone could fall asleep in the grass and wake up damp from dew, not quite understanding “where water came from nothing.”  But we also understand the world of Stella, where an “agave farmer taught her to shoot tequila when she was fourteen” and the dirt is “made of bones.”

Sara Tracey has the gift of place.  She knows landscape and she knows people. In this first chapbook, we, as readers, find ourselves straddling different worlds, longing to learn more about the people we have met.  I have said before that 2009 is the year of the chapbook, and I believe that Flood Year is another book that should be added to everyone’s reading list.  As for me, I am now looking forward to Sara Tracey’s first full length of poetry.