reviews

PEBBLE LAKE REVIEW: Sky Girl Review

Have you seen the children carrying caged birds?
The idea is you’ll give them money and they’ll let the bird go.
It’s supposed to bring you good luck.
One kid approached me the other day. I put my hand on my
stomach and shook my head. Oh no thank you son, I’ve just
eaten lunch. The boy was very frightened. (10)

“The above poem, ‘Phuket January 2000’ follows the author, Rosemary Griggs, through her adventures. The first poetry collection from a recent MFA graduate at San Francisco State, Sky Girl is aimed at readers still uncertain on planes in the world of post-September 11th. Traveling the world, the author portrays foreign places with a delicious cynicism.

Griggs excels at capturing the one perfect image that will resonate with readers eternally, a familiar image they may have experienced dozens of times before. Then she subverts it, adding her own craftiness. Family photos in China reflect the unwanted girl babies and their plight, while children in modern Zambia scoff at rumors of moon landings. The conversations Griggs records are funniest because they feel truly real, or at least, too strange to be made up.

Throughout the book, poems link in a cycle, exploring the transient life of a flight attendant. Griggs and her character Kimberlie face these challenges and rootlessness with great courage. This collection is quirky and off-beat, with satiric humor popping up in odd places to discomfit readers.

No one will experience flying the same way again, after hearing Kimberlie’s internal monologues. ‘Of course,/I’ll be right back with that’ (19) means she is pretending to be a Stepford Wife. ‘Have a good day’ (5) is only said to someone she would sleep with, as she plays games with the ‘handsome young first officer’ (5) The streams of ‘hello’s are even more disturbing.

Part Two of the collection deals with Mary, the ghost perpetually haunting Kimberlie’s apartment. These poems focus on the loss of watching everyone else in the world keep living, as Mary, the ex-apartment owner, conflicts with Kimberlie, who only stays there for a few days a week. These poems are soft and wistful, as Mary longs to plant orange trees that ‘would be full grown by now’ (29) and to expel the intruder in her life. Simultaneously, these poems indicate Kimberlie’s transience and her desire to belong.

In the third section, Griggs confronts the tragedy of September 11th. As a flight attendant, she constantly remembers the threat she and the other airline workers face daily. Griggs faces this best in the poem ‘DEN-EWR,’ comparing her job to a pack of wildebeests that cross the river in a great mass, knowing crocodiles will kill some of them, but that the pack will survive.

The author’s voice is simple, alternating strong images with insightful emotions. Everyone, upon reading, will find some detail that touches him or her. Griggs’ first collection is a delight that demystifies fear and confronts it, comforting readers with the knowledge that the author shares their feelings of panic and loss. Winner of the 2003 Alberta Prize, this collection is an utter delight and a powerful triumph.”

Valerie Frankel (Winter 2005)