marlene mountain
september 1987

review by marlene mountain

Adele Kenny, MIGRATING GEESE, 1987, Muse-Pie Press, 47 pgs. Cover photograph by Fran Moffett, illustrations by Ray Richards. $4 plus $1 postage.

It appears that to speak of almost anything these days, one has to take some time to sort through deliberate distortions and damaging myths pervading society before one can get on with things. One set of dichotomies within patriarchal mentality is that of man/culture and woman/nature. Clamped to this is the 'always has been' theory.

First, recent scholarship is pushing beyond masculinist 'thinking' in almost every area, including projection of the male-dominance theory on our very ancient past. The shift is from man the hunter (a rather late development) to woman the gatherer. It is now recognized that of our ancestors (from hominids to Homo Sapiens), it is the females who were the first true verbal communicators (mother to child), the first primary food providers/sharers (gatherers through early cultivators, as well as hunters), the first inventors (e.g., diggings sticks and other tools, including containers and slings for food and children, respectively). Further more, from more accurate interpretations it is understood that it is the females who initiated sexual activity and chose 'relationships.' Women may also have been the first artists, counters/daters/writers (e.g., calendars for menstrual cycles), and creators of spirituality. We now have a much clearer picture of women as the bearers of culture as well as those 'closest to nature,' or more precisely, women as intrinsically whole--no dichotomy at all.

Second, in much later times, as men began to understand animal breeding, and to incorporate castration and selectivity of animals, and as they began to comprehend their role of paternity coupled with these new internalized anxieties, a tremendous over-reaction to this knowledge resulted in concepts of control, property, and surplus. Men began to view women as breeders, bearers of children who would work within the gardens and herds (and, later, in wars). The awe which had previously surrounded woman's reproductive capacity changed drastically. Irrigation and the plow compounded the control of land, and it, animals and females came to be denigrated--'things' to be subdued and ruled. This subjugation has led many women over the years to have conflict about or deny their identification with nature--not from the true inherent meaning, but from what it has come to mean. There is much perceived risk involved.

In her most recent book of haiku, MIGRATING GEESE, Adele Kenny has taken that risk and, by doing so, we move with her in a personal journey toward wholeness. On the surface, the poems speak to a female/male relationship which is splitting apart, and to the mourning of its passing. A more profound relationship is occurring on another level. Loneliness turns to aloneness and aloneness to awareness of a deep identification with nature and inner self. At first nature seems to be in the background or separate:

things left

One of the things many women can't readily say is: I am who I am without you; often it is an unknown. Space and thought and time alone are needed. Periodically we must redefine ourselves.

Kenny's journey into herself is not a linear one. As these two wonderful poems represent (respectively), there is wholeness mixed with less than wholeness:

full moon and blood--
I celebrate cycles


wind in the pines
giving the emptiness
a sound

It is because of the seasonal sequence intermixed with human feelings that we begin to see many of the poems when the poet is not mentioned (which on their own might be considered nature poems) take on the persona of poet as nature herself. With this powerful underlying texture, at those times when the poet actually appears 'in nature,' the image is even more powerful:

on the face of the pond
in my eyes

Whether the relationship of the poet with her lover ends or rebegins, we come away with a sense that she has found her true woman 'nature' self within. The expression of Kenny's personal journey through her poems is beautiful and moving.

at dawn
the gold between
new leaves

Brussels Sprout 5:1 May 1988

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