August Poetry Pick: Mid Drift

When I read this review about Kate Hanson Foster’s collection of poems, Mid Drift, I just knew I had to pick up a copy. The collection is set in Lowell, Massachusetts, so my working-class history mind instantly went to the past where the  Lowell Mill Girls worked in the textile mills.  While Mid Drift is not about this part of Lowell’s history, sense of place is very important in this collection, whether it’s found in poems that explore specific locations in Lowell or it’s used as a reflection of the characters who appear in many of the poems.

Many of the poems describe the physical location of Lowell.  For example, to the narrator in “The Merrimack” the river is personified in lyrical language: “You are home to me/and I follow you with sloppy knees.  Bare feet/pay no heed to the slimy bank, the bicycle/corroding, and to my surprise, your sleeves/make no ripple in the water.” In another poem, “Mill Ruins” the narrator describes a sexual encounter in the middle of industrial debris, explaining “Standing among the mill ruins/there is a silence so fleshy, almost human//the kind that waits/for something to happen.//Look at the way the city ignores even this.”   Finally, in “Dear Lowell” the narrator unconvincingly declares, “I have decided to leave” and then proceeds to explain why: “I walked down too many alleyways alone/looked the wrong people in the eye and dared//the knife to my throat.”

Certainly, some readers would want to know why a narrator would want to stay, why there is love for the debris and danger of Lowell.   The answer to that question is found in the poems that explore the lives of those in Lowell.  There’s a stubborn and gritty determination found in these lives, from a teenager who falls from the roof while trying to sneak a cigarette, to a father who, when attending church, suffers both spiritual and physical discomfort.  My favorite poem is “At the Blue Moon Strip Club” where the narrator watches a performer: “I am watching a woman without breasts/step lightly around the stage//piece by piece her skin announcing/itself.” 

Mid Drift is Foster’s first collection of poems and certainly one that is not to be missed, especially for readers who are interested in sense of place.   (For more information about Mid Drift, click on this link to Loom Press) Furthermore, many of the blurbs and reviews of Mid Drift refer to The Fighter, a movie that takes place in Lowell.  Thus, Mid Drift has done something that no other poetry collection has ever done for me: make me want to watch a movie.

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