Review: Echo Bay
Tolsun Books, pp. 48
Cost: $10.00 (paperback)
In Jennifer Battisti’s first chapbook, Echo Bay, we meet a multifaceted and singularly articulate girl and woman, raised on the fringes of the Las Vegas Valley, navigating the complexities of memory with moving poetic detail. The speaker is at once enrapturing and unabashed, exploring adolescence, marriage, motherhood, and grief with both precision and universality. Through Battisti’s unique perspective, we examine the shaded, much less glamorous fringes of the Las Vegas Valley, just as we are presented with the much less idealized aspects of motherhood and marriage. Battisti’s profound work fosters an intensity of emotion which ranges from despair to joy to acceptance as the speaker searches for the freedom of letting go.
She waits...to scour out the marks--
The Mojave cradles
this strange cup of longings in her center--
a child who fits and kicks,
Nurses the colic away with lavender sunrises
dipped in coyote’s breath.
Later, I left with the lie
of lingering hormones--running water after
the tornado ripped the bones
from the home.
Amidst this sense of surrender in her collection, Battisti is expertly able to explore that which grows and thrives in spite of that which lingers. Most literally, in poems like “The First Week,” “Jackalope,” and “Communion,” she examines the experience of having a child and watching her grow. She describes the irreversible change of life after giving birth, a forfeit of autonomy and yet a journey into the joys of being a mother: “I felt the deep pull of motherhood. / The glorious becoming by a ferocious undoing.” In “Communion,” we see a collision of the concepts of transformation and lingering, as she describes her “hips haunted by the phantom / baby straddling the notion of being separate.” She describes her placenta, shared with her daughter, as their “first Communion,” conveying a profound closeness and love that comes naturally and, despite the trials of motherhood, brings her a sense of oneness and peace.
This collection of poetry is a uniquely powerful examination of transition—into adulthood, into motherhood, and at the same time out of adolescence, out of pregnancy, and out of marriage. Just as Battisti as a speaker accepts her need to leave behind the hot, boisterous charm of her youth in Vegas, she demonstrates a steady yet emotional determination to let go in many aspects of her personal life, mirroring the two aspects poetically. However, just as the speaker must transition and continue to grow, Echo Bay makes it clear that she will never forget where she came from and, more effectively, what has shaped how she views her newfound family and sense of love; in “Fishing at Midnight,” Battisti makes this simultaneously uncomplicated and deeply impactful observation:
The moon hovered
over us, cracked in places
like shattered dishes glued back together,
The kind of loyalty I understood.