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My Father on a Bicycle

Excerpt from a review of My Father on a Bicycle, by Todd Davis (published in Smartish Pace)

In the book’s final section, Clark includes two poems that point toward the true core of her artistry and how that artistry cannot be divorced from her way of seeing, her sacred vision. In “Spirit Bundle” and “Creed,” Clark presents us with a catechism and a liturgy. “On the Lake Superior shore,” Clark writes in “Spirit Bundle,” “I constructed a vessel / to carry it, fashioned a container out of birch-bark curls, / ferns, a few leaves already turning red.” And she makes these materials hold to one another with “pitch, sweat, saliva, glue / of cobweb and dew.” Clark’s poems may be made of language, but it is the language of the body and the earth. Her litany of pitch and sweat and saliva could easily describe the elements that bind her own poems together, and at the conclusion of this particular poem, fittingly, her vessel is “pulled around a point, water silver and lead, / silver and blue, but moving, moving away.” Clark’s poetry recognizes the ephemeral and fleeting quality of existence. Her poems—once she has constructed them from what grows around her—inevitably move away upon the water. For some readers this may prove daunting: to construct the sacred only for it to drift from view. But because of the renewing of everything that lives and dies, Clark takes solace and tells us in “Creed” that she believes in the “body, ligaments almighty, skin / wrapping the thankful bones, and the resurrection / of the stomach, waking to hunger each day.”

We would do well to believe in a poetry as strong and sensual as Patricia Clark gives us. Her studied and thoughtful poems return us to the most elemental relationships, both human and earthly, reminding us, as her own poem “Next Door” suggests, that we would do well to catch “whatever light there is.”