Meditating on Aline Soules' Meditation on Woman

Carol Smallwood

        Meditation on Woman by Aline Soules, a well published California State University, East Bay, faculty member, is a collection of fifty-six poems to be read slowly, a few at a time, to fully appreciate their impact. Each, simply and economically written, begins with the two words, “A woman.” Some of the journals that published a version a few of these reflective poems include: Kenyon Review, The Binnacle, Poetry Midwest.
        A recent Poets & Writers featured six articles in a special section from leading writers about Inspiration—the importance of slowing down, making room for contemplation, and the possibilities for discovery. Meditation on Woman supplies readers with examples of this in abundance as it turns the ordinary upside down, leaving the reader, be they men or women, to look at things differently.
        The opening work, “The Third Eye”, is about a woman catching the cycles of her garden on video—winter cracks the lens, spring splinters it as the cycles continue. Gardening is mentioned in other poems too. The second, “Evolution” recalls the magical-realism of Gabriel Garcia Marquez and Isabel Allende: the blending of what is real and unreal as it relates a woman who grows a tail, senses what animals desire, joins them, growing a coat of hair like them as winter approaches.
        Making one’s own world is also reflected in “A Question of Balance” where a woman ”…owns the river, owns every bird that skims….” In the surprising poem about a woman being roasted on a fire: “And as she turns, her eyes shimmer in tune with the heat and see in every direction. The earth, all motion, spins with her and she with it.”
        Readers can easily relate to: “A woman is good at guilt. Palpable and breathing, it lives in her house. It lies down and sleeps in her spare bed” and understand the mixed feelings the duality in relationships: “The woman looks at her sister. She loves her and hates her as much as ever.”
        The familiar scene of waiting for an x-ray, the description of hospital gowns, the gowns spilling over in bins, the closed doors marked with signs, makes the 134 words in “Horizon” especially memorable.
        In each poem the poet is seeing herself and in the process, the universal—an activity so simple and yet complex, full of surprises and reflections of wonder. I’m looking forward to her next collection to savor, open my eyes, enjoy the company of a uniquely gifted poet. She clearly follows Doris Lessing’s advice: “Have you found a space, that empty space, which should surround you when you write?” Women will especially relate to this contemplative collection by Aline Soules, but they are so universal that men will appreciate them and be awed as well.

Meditation on Woman
By Aline Soules
Anaphora Literary Press, 2012
ISBN# 978-1-937536-13-8



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