(Argotist e-book, 2011)
In Adam Fieled’s collection, Mother Earth, we walk, in poems, a journey through the garden after the fall. The book presents 34 14-line poems, mostly a chronology that spans a few weeks’ time with some glances back and forth to complete the narrative. And what a narrative it is! We meet the players in this drama: a woman past her prime, a man overstaying his adolescence. We see their trials and tribulations: she is settling and despises the need that drives her to it, he is addled and addicted with no direction and no code to decipher the odd emotions that occasionally seep into his consciousness. She is fat (well, and pregnant), he is balding. And neither one is hopeful about their union. Their quest for resolution is played out in direct spare language, takes shape in bleak urban imagery.
The story is built on the structure of the poems. Using the same 14-line form throughout, Fieled crafts stability that stands in stark contrast to the chaos swirling around his characters. This tension lends dimension to the unfolding drama. Fieled also shifts perspective from poem to poem, giving us the viewpoints of both main characters and an occasional observer, again adding dimension to the story. Most of the poems are written in prose poetry ragged block style; a handful of them employ shorter line lengths and more traditional enjambment. In a linear narrative collection like this, structural differences can sometimes jar the flow, but in this case, these differences work poem to poem and do not interrupt natural pacing of the tale.
Not until the late middle of the book do we learn the character’s names. Fieled takes us to a bar and introduces us to a new woman before giving us the names of the main actors:
Sandra, she says her name is, tipping herblackened head onto his chest, wracked asit is by coughs. He introduces himself asRonnie, who lives on the island with hissister. ...
With “Ronnie’s” lie woven into the introduction, we don’t yet trust his identity, and it’s not until the next poem that we really gain a sense for these two people as named entities:
Ronnie is nearing the end of his rope. As he laysin bed with Jess, he aches to hold Sandra ever somuch closer. ...
Ronnie and Jess are not likable, their circumstances far from enviable. But their story is valid and Fieled does it justice in his attention to the details, the nuances of place and time, the thoughts that carry us from beginning to end via the internal channels of two opposing players. Reading the collection for the first time, I was left with strong emotions about the characters. Reading it a second time, I was tuned in to the musicality of the language and voices telling the tale. By the third time, the story and its structure revealed themselves as integral parts of the genuine whole. This is what must happen for a story, whether dark or light, sad or happy, to be successful in the telling. Adam Fieled’s unobtrusive and agile writing renders the story well told.
Annmarie Lockhart is the founding editor of vox poetica, an online literary salon dedicated to bringing poetry into the everyday, and the founder of unbound CONTENT, an independent press specializing in poetry publishing. You can find her words in fine journals online and in print.