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By: Ellaraine Lockie
32 Poems / 47 Pages / $5
Snark Publishing
637 W Hwy 50  #119
O'Fallon, IL  62269

Review By: Charles P. Ries

Since being bitten (badly) by the muse six years ago, Ellaraine Lockie has
received eight Pushcart nominations for her poetry. She accumulated over
sixty poetry awards by the end of her first year of actively submitting
work. Her first published chapbook entitled MIDLIFE MUSE won the Poetry
Forum's annual chapbook contest in 2000. And if that doesn't get your
attention, she has received over two hundred awards in poetry since
launching herself into the great poetry super highway - just six years ago.
But before you go and take a flying leap off a tall building and break all
your pencils you should know that while she is new to poetry, she is not new
to writing.

She told me about her jump into poetry, "I previously had written in other
genres (and still do)--nonfiction, magazine articles and children's picture
books. Seven years ago I had not read a poem since high school, except for
the occasional one I came across in children's literature. I thought I hated
poetry; I thought it had to rhyme. Then one day an old friend sent me some
of his poems and wanted my opinion. I liked them, but they didn't rhyme. So
I called my children's writing mentors for advice. When they told me about
free verse, I became obsessed with writing it and with getting it published.
This happened at a tough time in my life, and poetry became my salvation. I
just jumped in and started writing like crazy, unaware of what other poets
were writing. I entered the poems in contests before submitting to editors,
knowing that I needed something in cover letters to entice editors into
reading my work carefully." If she needed verification that she was on the
right track, she certainly got it.

Lockie's fourth book of poetry, FINISHING LINES, reflects her refined grasp
of language and form. I wasn't surprised to learn that Lockie was a chronic
re-writer, for not much in any of these poems seems extraneous. She told me,
"I re-write constantly.  I re-write until every word is the perfect word for
what I want to say at the time.  I re-write until I am in love with the
poem. My theory is that if I don't love it, how can I expect anyone else to
even like it?  I often continue re-writing after a poem has been published.
It's an evolution." Her careful hand is seen in , "The Whipping Woman": "The
woman I hire to daughter my mother / makes bi-weekly visits to the dementia
ward / Lies down beside the near-still waters // Accepts the mouth kisses
wet with drool / From where gravelly words / dribble down washed-out gullies
// Like a whipping boy she bears the brunt / of each face-to-face
flagellation / that my rawhide flesh refuses // And for twenty dollars an
hour I purchase / like contraposition of a professional mourner /
Substitution for services I can't supply".

Lockie told me that, "FINISHING LINES focuses on the endings of
things--people, animals, places, relationships, seasons of life; and death
is of course the ultimate ending. I'm fascinated with endings. We all deal
with small ones on a daily basis--the ending of a day, for instance. Then as
we reach middle age, we increasingly have to cope with endings. Things,
animate and inanimate alike, just wear out. It seemed to me to be a
universal topic for a poetry collection.  Many endings create beginnings,
and this intrigues me too. I allude to, or straight-out address, this aspect
in many of the poems here. It's a cycle. Thus, the foreword T. S. Elliot
quote, "In the beginning is my end."

This theme is most clearly visible in Lockie's poem "Liberation". Here is an
excerpt, "I hatch slowly / Each day cracking / lost wonders / Ice cream and
oatmeal / for breakfast /English for Chinese neighbors / Lunch with an
editor / An afternoon rest home visit / A cat-in-heat night // Hello
sunshine! / I'm 54 years old / at Disneyland / With the rest of my life / to
take rides / I follow famous sisters / through Tomorrow Land // At 60
Colette opened / a beauty salon in Paris / Jackie O became a book editor //
Margaret Mead said / The most creative force in the / world is a menopausal
woman / with zest // You haven't seen anything yet / Margaret Mead".

If I had anything less than glowing to say about this collection, it would
be Lockie's overuse of alliteration. I knew it wasn't an accident and
wondered if it was a result of her work on children's books. Here is what
she told me, "Alliteration is one of my favorite poetic devices, yes, and my
use of it is purposeful.  I like the musicality it creates, especially when
reading out loud.  Also, I often use it to achieve continuity between lines.
You're right though--too much alliteration gives the same kind of sing-songy
effect that rhyme can cause.  But I guess "too much" differs from reader to
reader.  I'm careful not to let alliteration get in the way of what I want
to say--another possible pitfall the device

shares with rhyme. Whereas picture book writing isn't responsible for my use
of alliteration, it is responsible for the structure of almost all my
poetry. In fact, I call this structure "Picture Book Poetry", and teach a
workshop on it."

Technique is written all over these poems and while my tastes lean toward
less developed work, I found Lockie never left me wondering what she was
trying to say. Her narratives never became secret code. But beyond using
precise language, she also structures her lines with complete intention. She
does not use commas and periods, and I asked what she was trying to
accomplish by this. Here is what she told me, "I didn't do away with commas
and periods; I never used them in poems (except for prose poems).  They
defeat my main purpose for writing poetry, and that is to be completely free
when I write.  Punctuating in poems makes me feel like I'm in poetry prison.
Also, putting a period or comma at the end of a line seems a little
redundant to me.  The line break already signals a slight pause.  I use
capitalization at the beginning of a line to signify that an extra pause is
needed before beginning that line (like for a period), and this makes sense
to me.  I use a fair number of sentence fragments so if I punctuated
prose-properly, my poems would all be littered with commas.  Also, writing
without end-of-line punctuation forces me to work harder on clarity and
syntax. Poetry has never completely followed the rules of prose anyway. Look
at all those capital letters at the beginning of each line.  I think that's
useless and out of date. "

So indeed (and thank God), Lockie did not just drop out of the heavens
unformed and begin to write great poetry; she'd spent a life time acquiring
her taste for language. But, still, I wondered how long she'd been writing
and where did she get that great name of hers. Perhaps everything is
revealed in her reply, "An elderly poet in a black beret whom I met at my
first poets' reading in Berkeley, asked me the same question.  I told him
that my given name was Ella Loraine, but that my mother's first name was
also Ella and that I didn't like not having my own name.  So in the second
grade, I combined my two names into Ellaraine, wrote it on the top of a
school assignment and announced to the teacher and classmates that it was to
be my name from then on. The Berkeley poet said, "My dear, you are not a
beginning poet; you have been a poet since the second grade, because that's
what poets do:  they condense in a creative way."  

I would have to agree, and say that while Lockie has been writing 'poetry'
for a short time, she has been a work in progress her entire life - and it


Charles P. Ries lives in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. His narrative poems, short
stories, interviews and poetry reviews have appeared in over one hundred
print and electronic publications. He has received three Pushcart Prize
nominations for his writing and most recently he read his poetry on National
Public Radio's Theme and Variations, a program that is broadcast over
seventy NPR affiliates.  He is the author of THE FATHERS WE FIND, a novel
based on memory. Ries is also the author of five books of poetry - the most
recent entitled, The Last Time which was just released by The Moon Press in
Tucson, Arizona. He is the poetry editor for Word Riot and he is on the board of the Woodland Pattern
Bookstore in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.  

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