Swim Class and Other Poems by George Whipple.
Reviewed by Megan McGrath.
In this touching collection of poetry, George Whipple eloquently explores such profound themes as nature, family, and existence itself. Divided into sections titled Swim Class, Flowers, Motherhood, Poetry Reading, Seamark, and Mocking Birds, this delightful book presents the reader with a close look into the themes Whipple handles with great deftness and care. Through an honest and heartwarming speaker who muses over his own existence, Whipple declares in "Motherhood", "For those who [know everything] / there's motherhood: / a son or daughter / walking on the water." His speaker is "still impatient for / the day when I might leave / and join my poems / waiting at the door" in the poem "Lunch with Mom and Dad."
Perhaps the most memorable images are those Whipple uses to invoke nature: "the sound of moonlight /over snow-transfigured mountains" ("Music Master") and "unswept from naked trees / an ecstasy of leaves takes flight" ("An Ecstasy of Leaves") are remarkable descriptions that capture nature simply. "I interrogate the moon / and ask whose clouds / are those between the buildings," says the speaker in "Judgment Day." Then Whipple gives the reader the most practical description of snow as it "disciplines street traffic" ("Virgin Snow") and the unforgettable first stanza of "Hammering":
That sound of hammering
you hear sometimes
in winter after dark
is not just a neighbour
pounding nails in your sleep.
In a beautiful gesture, Whipple offers a poem, "To the One Who Reads this Book", declaring "May you share it with others, / re-reading the best parts, / forgiving the failures." Any reader of this engaging collection will certainly follow the poet's instructions and return to the poems over and over again.