An Inner Struggle


Anxious Music, April Ossmann
[$15.95, 52 pages, University Press of New England]
 

It is unusual for me to warm so swiftly to a collection of poetry as I did to this debut publication by April Ossmann. In fact it made me wonder why I had not encountered her work before.  Ossmann writes of a world with which I can identify.  The world of the grey, rather than the black or white. Her work oozes a questioning search for meaning which captures the reader from the first page. Having said that at times I was sitting with a dictionary by my side as I digested her work, so broad is her vocabulary. I do now know what an epergne is. (A branched centre piece for the table)
 
In 'One' Ossmann begins the collection by considering the dichotomy of life in the first two lines:
 
     I wanted the avocados
     I didn't want the avocados
 
Immediately I was reminded of the fickleness of life and indeed the almost childlike behavior that we all exhibit when in our western consumerist world: when we get what we wanted - we don't want it any more. Whatever we want is never enough and this causes an inner struggle to find the contented way that Ossmann peruses throughout her work.

It's all too easy to slip the word spirituality into a review of poetry, but at the risk of being a cliche. I did sense the spiritual quest was ever present in this collection. That is not to say that Ossmann presents us with easy answers. Far from it.
 
In 'Satisfaction' there is venom of jealousy of that sense of being contented is almost tangible.
 
     hey, you've got legs to dance on
     the body that would
     look nice in the dress, the finger
 
     that would look right in the ring.
     So you're grateful,
     even if what you don't have
 
     is more real
     than what you do.
 
The fact that her companion, or indeed in the way that we so often consider that other people lives are better than our own, when they are filled with all the insecurities that we feel is at the heart of this poem.
 
With the issues that Ossmann wrestles with, this is an honest if challenging short initial collection. Musical? - possibly. Anxious? - definitely.
 
         Alan West 2007