Review: Particular Scandals, by Julie L. Moore

by Guest Blogger April 10, 2015

Reviewed by Elise Kimball

When I first read the title Particular Scandals (Cascade Books, Poiema Poetry Series, 2013), I envisioned steamy revelations of past delinquencies, but when I finally opened the book, I found that these scandals refer to the mystical phenomena we encounter every day, the greatest scandal being that we would praise “nothing / for creating beauty / as particular as” hyacinth, huckleberry, and “Hopkins’ beloved bluebell.”

In this way Julie L. Moore wraps up her version of the age-old argument on the goodness, and existence, of God. Her title poem runs through ten ordered sections, each striving within and against the harshness of life for a spiritual peace. For it’s not all bluebells. Moore unwinds her sense of suffering onto the page so fluently that as I read, I felt that I, and everyone else in the world, had attempted to write this exact poem, but with different words, and without such a lovely ending.

Throughout her book, Moore focuses on the beauty we can find if we look, and the pain we feel regardless of our search. “Voice” tells the story of a mother’s loss; “Intersection” carries us along with the organs of a suddenly deceased 20-year-old as they are dispersed across Ohio. These poems focus on a particular pain, “Lump” a particular fear. In “Confession,” we see Mark 5:24-34 with new eyes. We watch the bleeding woman heal in her “scandalous and particular / faith.” This book focuses on the particulars while it slides across the enormities of space and time.

One of my favorite poems in this collection, “Buck,” highlights what Moore does so well—take our dilated eyes, flash images of beauty in front of them, and before the pupils have had a chance to shrink in the light, blind them with an image of blood:

The wild has come to your door:

A buck with a rack elaborate as a labyrinth

curving into dead ends.

Approaching the road you drive on.

Considering, perhaps, the lilies of the field

across the way. Threatening

to bolt, hurl his heavy heart

onto your hood.

Perhaps this poem stood out to me because I avoid deer every day on the winding roads in my small town near the coast of Central California. I know what they look like once they have been hit: bloated, vultures. And then bloated vultures. (Moore covers this consumption process in her poem “Denouement.”) Moore’s rough topics are complemented by her complete disregard for “proper” grammar. As we see in “Buck,” incomplete sentences lead to a comfortable ambiguity that allows you to question where the thoughts and actions of the buck end, and the driver’s begin.

“Window” provides the book with a fitting end. As we become entangled in the robin, which is “Caught in the slim cell between pane and screen” (which sounds strangely similar to pain and scream), we feel its fear. We hold our breath as Moore and her husband consider their options—how to set the robin free. Finally, they decide to remove the screen:

releasing the bird into the morning air,

[we] followed it, stretching

our bodies through the window

that seemed, in the mercy

of the moment, to go on opening

and opening.

   
Elise Kimball lives in the little town of Templeton with three housemates and her dog, Charley. She currently enjoys coffee with cream, spring wildflowers that dot rolling green hills, and fine wine (or any wine) from the local central coast of California. Elise graduated from Westmont with her BA in English, and utilizes her knowledge daily as a barista at Merry Hill Coffee & Teas by professing that she is "well." Though the future looms ever vigilant ahead of her, Elise tries to focus more on the present task, blessing, friend, or rabid coffee customer.


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