I wasn’t sure this was my type of poetry when it was first offered. The title drew me in with its combination of two different mythos. Both speak of rebirth after destruction– one from fire and the other from water. Reading the poems I found the same duality. The early poems in the collection speak of younger days with hopes and worries. The later poems take on more adult and contemporary issues including race and the institutionalized violence associated with it.
From her poems, it seems Farrell had always wanted to be a poet but not always supported in her goal. Like many people she felt a bit intimidated by those who “really know” poetry and poets. Her themes reflect this feeling with poems of winter and cold. Fighting this cold are dreams and a warm beat that took me back to my youth and hearing, for the first time, Rickie Lee Jones’ Young Bloods:
Shimmy when you feel a catchy tune
I shimmy at sunrise, wiggle flowers whenever rain storms drench the pedals.
There is that youthful attitude that knows things will get better. The youthful, young adult independence and the spirit of an artist bleeds through in “black ink.”
But, it is best to walk solo than with packs who feed off
your radiance, rather than cuddling their own.
your smile when you finally know your worth.
The reader will slowly see the poet slip into the realities of the modern world. Hopes and dreams are not necessarily crushed but they are damaged by the world around. Hope remains but so does the recognition of injustice and hypocrisy in life. Farrell does not lose hope for all the negatives she experiences. She reminds us that there is goodness and art in the world. Hope and reality battle through this collection, but like the phoenix the poet also rises. The dove in Genesis brought back proof of a better future when it returned with an olive branch following the flood. Farrell saves the best and most enlightened poem for last. Her closing stanza in the long and final poem “How I’m Doin'” ties everything together perfectly. It is her olive branch after the flood.