Any Other Branch
Page Count: 68
Publication Date: Friday, February 15, 2013
Cover Artwork: Big Pinkie by Beth Page
About this Book
The poems in Any Other Branch are grouped into four sections; representing developmental stages of life. The stages are grand leaps, rather than small steps or divisions of time. They are emotional groupings based on the way each poem ties into the next and the section’s over-arching theme. Ivy Page employs a philosophical approach to the psychology of human response. She explores the world through different perspectives, lending each poem emotional, moral, and intellectual depth.
“Nothing, lately, from my kitchen / tastes as sweet as ink,” declares Ivy Page, and in brief lyrics that are humorous and sensual (“Like the warm lick across my thigh / when you come to bed early”), she balances that sweetness with an irreverent tang to allay her spiritual hunger: “Give me light in the world gone dark in the center / of some black rose, some angelic tar pit.” Any Other Branch is a book of such sly surfaces that often reveal surprising depths.
These poems are short and quick, but of great consequence, like bullets. The language here is filled with roosters and diets and radiators that simply refuse to let go. I love the directness of Ivy Page’s tone in this work, how “Dogs hang in my throat trying to push past my heart,” as she writes, and how a “Man knows how to dress / like a woman, not in women’s clothes.” Indeed. Any Other Branch reminded me of early work by a brilliant contemporary Irish poet Rita Ann Higgins—in how these lines punch (“birds wear headphones/ in your dreams. Their limbs are fat.”) and how they stand up for one woman’s voice, and how they laugh (“Jesus ate my Buick, so I might have to walk / miles to find these parts”) out loud, in a full voice, unafraid.
Any Other Branch is a collection that’s both incredibly grounded, and also filled with psychological urgency. The poems originate in the personal, but extend effortlessly into the deeply universal, showcasing a fine and original imagination, and humanity to spare.
author of Stumble, Gorgeous and the New York Times Best Seller, The Paris Wife
With “children dancing in ginger spiced corridors,” a pumpkin lover “glowing / with the light I gave,” and “wooden men who dance / on boards with dowels sticking out / of their backs,” Ivy Page populates a lush and surreal world. It’s a world full of ‘branches’—of crossroads, choices and consequences rendered in sensual, sometimes surprising language and imagery.
author of Luck and A Thirst That's Partly Mine
Ivy Page lives in the White Mountains of New Hampshire with her husband and two daughters. She holds an MFA in Poetry from New England College. Her work has appeared in journals such as Night Train, Poetry Quarterly, Grey Sparrow Press, Boston Literary Magazine, The Houston Literary Review, Midwest Literary Magazine and New Plains Review, among others. Her work has also been anthologized in Knocking at the Door: Approaching the Other. She is the editor and founder of Organs of Vision and Speech Magazine. She works to keep her local poetry community active by running a reading series for poets. Ivy teaches writing, literature, communication, publication, web publication, and history at colleges throughout New Hampshire. For more information visit her website: www.poeticentanglement.com
If I knew that those Sunday-school stories I heard would become
a ball of uncertainty rolling around inside me,
if my parents hadn’t kicked me out for dating the youth pastor wannabe,
and I hadn’t moved in with the married lesbian.
If the married lesbian hadn’t decided to divorce her husband
I wouldn’t have ended up living in Athens, Georgia where
I would, in the span of a week discover that my boyfriend was
cheating on me, miscarry our baby, and get mugged.
If I hadn’t moved in with my ex-boyfriend’s mother after that
and then in with a distant cousin in Milledgeville, Georgia
where I would find my perceptions altered by practicing the loss
of time through smoke and mushrooms, multiple partners
and practicing being Good Enough* at karaoke. Or if my drinking buddy
hadn’t said that the guy running the karaoke night
was gay, so that I challenged — I would bet her a beer that I could
get him in the sack, and if he hadn’t asked for my
number that same night only to tear it up a week later because I turned him
down because I was still only seventeen and wouldn’t be
let into the bar where he wanted to take me dancing. And if the drummer
in the band I sang for hadn’t done twelve shots of white
lightning the following New Year’s and then urinated on me in bed because
he was in diabetic shock, and if I hadn’t covered the shift
delivering pizzas for the girl I worked with, and if I hadn’t gone
to the party, where the guy that ran karaoke
read poetry, and I sang bad imitations of Janis Joplin—
then I wouldn’t have ended up in place of eight month snows,
married ten years to the guy that ran karaoke, and I wouldn’t be watching our
two children recreating games of hopeful daisy chains, and
animal clouds. And if we had chosen any other branch?
* “Good Enough” Sarah McLachlan
** After W.S. Merwin’s “One of the Lives”
We had four
shipped to us in a bunch
from the hatchery. At eight
years old, on a farm
The hatchet went through
the neck of the first, smooth and easy.
Blood spurted out
the body flew to the top
of my mother’s car
parked halfway across the yard.
It flopped and sputtered then suddenly...death
on the cream colored roof.
A bright red gush running down
You can only have one rooster.
Jesus ate my Buick, so I might have to walk
miles to find the parts,
spread like pieces of the shroud,
but then I could reassemble them
and have myself a down-right Holy,
Jesus blessed, touched by the son of God vehicle.
I might have to order the book
on how to reconstruct it
and wear a hazmat suit,
and make my garage a temple
but it would be worth it.
I would build the car that Jesus shat out,
‘blessed divinity” I would call it.
The T.V. crews would show up
and ask me about the Great Prophet,
and how I knew it was him.
I’d sit back and smile:
“Ain’t nobody else could shit a Buick out made a pure gold.”
Copyright © Ivy Page 2013
Review: Any Other Branch reviewed by Jo Chapman Campbell for DURA - Dundee Review of the Arts (April 2014)
Although Any Other Branch is Ivy Page’s debut collection, her work is already much anthologized and is well-published in numerous respected journals. Additionally, she is the founder and editor of Organs of Vision and Speech Magazine. Perhaps tellingly, her dedication to “my best beloved, Stephen & for my girls …” opens up a highly moving and, in parts, very personal book.
The collection is divided into four parts: “Men”, “Room”, “Girl” and “High Tide”. the first section is announced with confidence, quoting from T.S.Eliot’s The Hollow Men. Unsurprisingly then, the poetry which follows is modernist in its use of language and sparing with its punctuation. Indeed, in some of the poems such marks are entirely absent. Consider “Soldiers”, which is completely devoid of the conventional grammatical mechanisms of pause and stop. This results in verse very able to convey the eternal nature of war and aggression. Contrastingly, “See” (in “Girl”) is short and iconic, with inbuilt, punctuated reflective spaces. Indeed, Page’s creative use of punctuation is a feature throughout; a spectacularly successful example of the poet’s ability to combine the lexical and grammatical in a concrete, purposeful way. The brevity and force of Page’s verse is striking and the effect upfront, in keeping with the stark and uncompromising imagery. “Male Seeking” is bitter-sweet funny and sexy, structured as an advertisement, but with a hard, verbal left hook at the worst of the hollowness of men:
breasts that could be
compared to hard whipped
egg whites –
Even in her darkest moments – in “Death Call” and in “Roosters”, there is a straightforwardness, and intrinsic integrity, describing death in a way which is both personal and universal. The latter bows out with the succinct “You can only have one rooster”.
“Room” has a humour and a sensuousness largely absent from the first section – from the soft flow of “honey” and “suckle” in “Word Diet” to the powerfully erotic “Twice Baked Cunnilingus” … all “essence”, “creamy”, “smoky” and “melody” rich. Enjoy, too, this section’s rhythms, rhymes and image-dense alliterative qualities. In “Insanity”, for example, we hear “padded walls, prickle”, “freckle my face” and “shake-down, drown-out”. Many of these poems are in the first person, even when the themes are huge.”Rock and Flesh” illustrates the exploration of the personal in tandem with the contemplation of the cosmos –
Calm comes as I imagine the woman
in her wicker clicking in rhythm
with the ocean wave; rhythm that moves us…
The third section, “Girl”, is broken into numbered, defining titles, such as “6.Hand” and “3.At 14”. These titles are short – sometimes only a single word long – and the poems themselves are correspondingly brief. The subjects and style are extraordinarily intimate, and there are some very well-nuanced return volleys to some of the earlier poems in “Men”.
The title page quotation of “High Tide”, “all I want is a human window/in a house whose roof is my life” (Ilya Kaminsky, from Marina Tsvetaeva), is illuminating and here we have the greatest variety of subject, style, stanzaic form and atmosphere. Compare the immediacy of “Tribute”, with its short couplets, to the prose poem format of “Compost”. Warmth, humour and intense observation run through all of these poems. Page conveys not only deeply personal moments, often with surreal touches, but also the eternal, universal aspects of humanity, which she is equally adept at unveiling.
If any poem can be said to give the flavour of the book, it may be ”Blessings” in this final grouping – a neat, balanced and rhythmic poem which is all at once laser sharp and engaging.
Give me light in the world gone dark in the center
of some black rose, some angelic tar pit,[…]
This is an exquisite collection, warm, womanly, timeless and thought-provoking; challenging and enlightening poems for all – and thoroughly recommended.