Paddle to Paddle
Paddle to Paddle is a unique, anthology of fictionalized narrative poetry.
Lois Chapin covers a range of topics from religion, to childhood, motherhood, and toxic romantic relationships.
Chapin opens her work with a thought-provoking piece about Mary, the mother of Jesus. She refers to Mary as “a cool mom.” Instantly the reader is intrigued. She goes on to say that Mary “encouraged [Jesus] to argue and disagree, [she] let him hang out with older friends…, she allowed him to live at home through his twenties…she even believed everything he said.” This is a fantastic opening; it offers shock value and a parenting lesson.
In her “Acknowledgment” section, Chapin writes a disclaimer; she says her work is fiction and that names and events have been changed. Her frequent religious metaphors reveal that she has definitely had some religious influence—her first poem is called Pslams 29:15. Several of her poems refer to a holy-than-thou mother with abusive tendencies. The mother screams, “the wages of sin is death” because reading the newspaper is not allowed; for playing with the neighbor’s water gun the narrator was beaten, the charge— breaking the “thou shall not kill” rule. All of this, along with several references to the Seventh-Day Adventist church, make it apparent that religion and authority have been abused in Chapin’s life experience.
Abuse is a frequent theme in the anthology as well. In one poem, she discusses a rape. The narrator had been out drinking and faults herself. “This is my fault. This is what happens to sinners,” she says. This connection between mother and abuse unfolds throughout the book, but in the final poem, the mother is eight-five-years-old; the mother pats the narrator’s hand with her withered one. The reader gets a sense of forgiveness and healing for this family that was once so chaotic.
I enjoyed this book, and I recommended it to all poetry lovers—especially those who appreciate narrative poetry. I especially liked Chapin’s provocative pieces and her excellent use of figurative language. One of my favorite lines is in the poem “Scars.” Chapin assesses women and how we hid our scars; I interpreted it as an analogy, she says, “maybe scar tissue is stronger than the original skin. Damaged dermis bears witness.”
My only criticism is that there are not themed sections. In most instances, the anthology seems to follow some chronological order, but other times it is not clear. Themed section would allow the reader to follow the narratives more efficiently.
Again, I enjoyed this poetry book—more than I’ve enjoyed a poetry book in a long time. I am looking forward to more work from Chapin.
|Nightingale Rose Publications
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