We, the Women.


62 pages
ISBN 978-1-55071-248-9
DDC C811'.6





Reviewed by Stephanie McKenzie

Stephanie McKenzie is a visiting assistant professor of English at Sir
Wilfred Grenfell College, Memorial University of Newfoundland. She is
the editor and co-publisher of However Blow the Winds: An Anthology of
Poetry and Song from Newfoundland & Labrado


Merle Nudelman’s second book of poetry, We, the Women, speaks of female inheritance: “Filled with water’s calm, / we sprinkle that knowing-dust / into our daughter’s eyes” (“We the Women” 9). However, it is not these serene images which constitute the strength of Nudelman’s verse.


The book’s best poem, “Spirit Fragments,” is set in a rough Vancouver area where the narrator “farm[s] / out [her] body for a twenty, some weed or drug / to stoke the fire in the house / of [her] wandering.” Here, we are also introduced to one of Nudelman’s strengths—endings: “In the rain they find my poems (my spirit-drug)—moments tending the farm, sweeping the house, / trading concrete for the bloom of husks” (55).

The conclusion to “Cousin Thomas” is equally unexpected and strong: “The baby slept; you guzzled rye. Reeking / drink you chortled as you fondled. Later your / wife curled my hair with rollers and beer that / stung my eyes’ flat stare.”


Nudelman is a technician. In particular, internal rhyme and assonance stand out. In “Shadow Music,” the wary woman “shifts hips and head to look and snare / the shining of his wary eye.” However, the same or similar techniques can weaken Nudelman’s verse: “smaller barbs (rapacious ants) / that test, suggest while she just pants” (“Questioning”).


Nudelman is also an imagist and formalist. In some of her most image-dependent poems, “The National Museum, Nice”, for example, the insinuated narrative is not that strong. Less successful are her works of concrete poetry. In “The Weight of Loss,” the poem wastes away to a one-line end, and in “The Texture of Orange,” the poem rounds out its meaning. These are small detractions from Nudelman’s overall capabilities. That said, there is strength and beauty in this book, like the “orchid in the Prairie winter” or “denim soul” found in “The Belly Dancer.”


Nudelman, Merle., “We, the Women.,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed May 26, 2024, https://cbra.library.utoronto.ca/items/show/28165.