One thing poetry can do, often better than non-poetic literary forms, is to present images and ideas that challenge our notions of the status quo, of what we believe, and how we understand the reality of the everyday. The 70 poems of Faces in a Crowd, a new collection by Mary Harwell Sayler, does this exceptionally well.
Sometimes, she asks questions directly. “Can you see / that forlorn little boy, alone, / waiting to be remembered / inside the man, / caught now in clouds of anger?” And “What is there to prove / but being for, / not just against?”
Sayler asks the learning questions – who, what, where, when, how, and why. She considers the photojournalist reading herself to death. And she takes on how we understand history, as in this poem:
In school, I learned
of wars and dates
the conqueror’s pride
It took me many
years to ask –
to take to task
the conquering side
of plot and story.
Why hide from me
of peoples, places,
of cooking pots
Sayler considers the everyday events and realities we all experience – family gatherings, dementia, aging, funerals, new flooring in the kitchen, Halloween costumes, and more. And she turns each into a question, often probing, always on point, leading us to consider that what we see is not necessarily what we understand.
|Mary Harrell Sayler|
Sayler is the author of some 27 books, including Living in the Nature Poem and Outside Eden: Poems; Christian Poet’s Guide to Writing Poetry; First Days of Parenting; First Days of Retirement; among several others. She blogs at In a Christian Writer’s Life and Poetry Editor and Poetry.
Many of the poems in this collection were previously published in literary journals and other magazines.
Faces in a Crowd invites us to look beyond the obvious, remove the masks and disguises (and sometimes the blinders), and see our world, and ourselves, as we really are.
Top photograph by Redd Angelo via Upsplash. Used with permission.