Migration by Ginny Wiehardt
Gold LIne Press, 2016; 21 pp
Reviewed by Michael Levan
Exodus, relocation, voyage, passage, journey. In short order, Ginny Wiehardt’s Gold Line Press Chapbook Prize-winning Migration manages to contain all of these synonyms. It’s an impressive feat to establish the kind of range she does in such a small space, the poems inhabiting so many facets of the book’s title.
We see hope and despair on these treks. “Shotgun House” features a speaker dying for escape, finally being able to “book it” with her sibling(s) and realizing “Some things have to break / To give their goodness.” The titular young men in “Texas Boys in Drag” work hard to change into themselves despite “how long a walk [it is] / through a loaded town / for Texas boys in drag,” and in “On the Black Sands Beach,” a man desperate for satisfaction imagines himself “At the bottom / [where] he [finds] Antarctica, a place where the sun / gives no warmth, only blindness.” We hear too of a failed voyage in “In Search of the Green Flash”:
I’d come to be transformed again.
I would have sacrificed much.
In the end, all I got
was another sunset.
We encounter the passage into parenthood as a new mother laments of all the ways she could and used to spend her time in “Instead of Writing While the Child Sleeps.” And, lastly, we’re taken along on the speaker’s journey as she learns to connect with her baby amid her lack of sleep (“Fourth Trimester”). Even when it gets difficult, when the sleep deprivation fuzzes her mind and has her on the edge of reality and dream, she still is able to see possibility for her, for him, for them: “In the long present before the spell breaks, / we can’t know / what waits inside.”
There’s not a straight path from page one to page end, but even without a clear narrative arc, appreciating the subtle ways each poem adds dimension and complexity to the chapbook is necessary and meaningful. If the chapbook is any indication of how she’d put together a longer book, I’ll be very curious (and happy) to review Wiehardt’s debut full-length collection some day.