This review appears in the August to December 2013 issue of The Ontario Poetry Society’s publication, Verse Afire, with thanks to Barbara Lefcourt:
Quillfyre Publishing, 2012, 30pp,
In her engaging chapbook “Architectural Variations,” Carol A. Stephen deepens attention to the many intimate moods and feelings we have of “home.” Starting with particular ancient cultures we learn of home orientations conforming to the wisdom of religious teachings. This invites readers easily to ponder spiritual aspects of house and home that many of these twenty-two unique poems illuminate. Even for the curiosity-seeking stranger at an abandoned house (“Knock and Enter”) “Shadows lengthen down the hall. / Memory’s light pools at my ankles, / the pull of the ordinary, the comfortable known. / Forward or retreat?” Besides underlining joys and sorrows of “home” the writer helps us feel the almost human entities that these diverse buildings become as they absorb and reflect the emotions, scents and rhythms of private life. Calls of wildlife and gurgling lake combined with “pleasant odours/ of yeasty bread and roasted meat mix/ with smell of coal oil from lighted lamps….” bespeak warm aura of the seasonal cabin. Yet memories of home can intimidate (“The House she Lived In”), or deem to be puny and irrelevant when visited years later (“The House on Sumach Street”). A well-planned modern home may fulfill all needs (“Floor Plan For Haven”) yet homes have many voices such as that: “of protest: creak and settle of bricks and foundations, / whispers like old widows comparing disabilities”,/ (“The Arguments Houses Make.”). In their wearing away they become burdens (“Fence Years.” ) In lasting memory homes may remain havens of treasured backyard beauty and private play (“Front Porch, Back Porch”), yet for the lonely widower the “Silences of Home” are painfully sad. “He wanders from room/ to room. His footsteps echo…. Here, she birthed the children/ on sheets traced with sweat, / there she baked bread, redolent/ of yeast and acacia honey.” This slim treasure of great variety and insight is one to reread many times over. ”Architectural Variations” will undoubtedly stir imaginations and creativity stimulating readers to probe their many personal remembrances of home.
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