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A Disturbance in the Air

Michele Poulos’ debut poetry chapbook and winner of the 2012 Slapering Hol Press Chapbook Competition, A Disturbance in the Air, embodies a meditative, emotive lyric in finely crafted poems that deal with the complexities of interpersonal relationships. In examining lives through a historical veil, various speakers narrate and reflect on historical events surrounding Greece and other places, prompting the dead to speak and even return.

Michele Poulos’ debut poetry chapbook and winner of the 2012 Slapering Hol Press Chapbook Competition, A Disturbance in the Air, embodies a meditative, emotive lyric in finely crafted poems that deal with the complexities of interpersonal relationships. In examining lives through a historical veil, various speakers narrate and reflect on historical events surrounding Greece and other places, prompting the dead to speak and even return.

The presence of history and historical retelling are prevalent in most of these poems. The three-section poem “When the Wind Falls” links together significant historical moments in Mouriki, Greece. In the second section, 70 years after mid-World War II, the narrator claims:

And if I refuse to point a finger,
it is that such fears are useless
as a cracked baseball bat
kept under a bed
or shutters fastened against the night’s slow shuffle.

The speaker continues to narrate these scenes of struggle, and, by the third section, reflects on the same space in contemporary times as she remembers her aunt in 1941 “terrified by the round belly of the plane, the spray / of bullets that shattered the spell around her.” The act of remembering continues through the creation of the poem.

Poems that narrate moments of intimacy recur throughout the chapbook, simultaneously examining the nature of physical closeness and love enacted in youth. In “Everything I Wanted,” the speaker explains how

. . . If my jaw moaned
open even once, he’d push it back
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
into place, silence wide
as the hem of the low country

and even describes her body “. . . at twenty // still new, dumb as the hitchhiker / whose sign reads Wherever.” A coupled sense of abandon and resistance permeates these poems as each moment grows heavier through the act of remembering.

Although brief in length, A Disturbance in the Air is a dense chapbook packed with strong narrative and well-crafted detail. Owing a strong allegiance to the power of observation, Poulos’ poems engage with a historical sense of tragedy and loss in language that does not become overindulgent. Rather, detail enriches each scene, such as in “The Ruins at Missolonghi,” where a female figure thinks of bodies as “a field of poppies / the wind no longer shudders against, / the sky a pouch of gunpowder cinched shut.” In navigating through these moments of loss, the reader can begin to piece together the remnants of history Poulos has so carefully collected and reassembled.

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