Rocking on the Edge
Ronnie R. Brown
Black Moss (2010)
Rocking on the Edge is Ronnie Brown’s sixth book of poetry, and her fourth with Black Moss Press. Once again, she shows the strong narrative sense and gift for the revealing vignette that made previous books top contenders for the Acorn-Plantos Poetry Award. (States of Matter won the award in 2005.)
This book combines an unflinching look at the darker aspects of human existence with an equally dark sense of humour about the unwed mothers, bullied and abused children and terrified grandparents who people its pages. A series of poems titled Rough Edges show their characters on the brink, physically, emotionally, or electrically:
Hairpin in hand, he waits. His big sister
has told him all those outlets in the wall,
the ones with nothing plugged into them, are there
so Grandma can hide things – small, shiny, valuable
things. And so he waits for them to leave the room,
waits to poke the hairpin in. Waits . . .
to see what he’s going to get.
Longer autobiographical poems such as Smart, Tap-Dancing Lessons and Listing show a child’s consciousness evolving in response to her abusive mother – the hyper-vigilance, the caution, and ultimately the perspective that allow her to survive to productive adulthood.
The title poem, Rocking on the Edge takes us into the mind of a grandfather listening to his daughter rocking her newborn baby, and recalling his wife’s descent into post-partum depression and suicide.
The people on the edge finally triumph in the last poem, where aging baby boomers rock the night away at a Rolling Stones concert. In spite of the beatings that fate administers, these people show resilience and strength, and the reader leaves the book filled with hope.
Ronnie Brown will read from Rocking on the Edge at several venues around Ottawa during National Poetry Month: the Ottawa Public Library Carlingwood Branch on April 26 at 7:00 pm, and at Dusty Owl at 2:00 pm on Sunday May 8.
Mary Lee Bragg