Paddle to Paddle

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Lois Chapin’s Paddle to Paddle is an expansive collection of poetry running well over a hundred pages. Yet, at no point will a reader feel overwhelmed or as though they are treading water as Chapin is able to imbue each of her poems with a resonant vitality. This comes from the deeply personal font from which she draws her inspiration.

In a way, Chapin has composed a novel-in-verse. It is one that begins with a kind of backhanded compliment, “Seems like Jesus’ mom/was cool,” to prime us for a recollection of lives at once banal and extraordinary.

The speaker of Paddle to Paddle occupies a space between daughter and mother, always both at once. The speaker explores trauma growing up with an abusive mother, her own attempts at forging family, and her dissensions and reconciliations. As the poems unfold, readers don’t just see but experience the mind and heart of enduring mental illness, guilt, and addiction. Chapin is able to come to a kind of reconciliation with her own abusive mother by the end of the collection when she is left as her end-of-life caregiver:

“My mom pats my hand/with her 85-year-old withered one. ‘We’re getting to know each other,’
she says,’
and I think,
‘her eyes sparkle behind wrinkled lids,
‘I think,
we like each other.”

At the same time, we experience the poetic speaker’s struggles with her own marriage, siblings, and work. Perhaps the best example of the mania she experiences is ‘Aspiration’:

“The mountain waiter repeated, “Gentlemen,”
With disdain, to my trans kid and her dad.
She ran
to the restroom in tears,
proud she could bounce.
The date-rape victim lied to me.
She won’t make a police report on her way home.
I’d ask how many men might have raped her
at the party.
She was drugged. Out cold.
Hadn’t considered the pain and bruises
could’ve been from more
than just her ex.
The soldier, trained with the US military,
10 years’ active duty,
Needs yet another psych eval,
To amend his application for citizenship.
ICE “lost” all his documentation.”

Cultural issues aren’t abstract happenings but visceral daily obstacles coupled with trivial guilt. Then, the build of and reason for all the irritants is brought into stark focus

“Eighteen long months, living in a world gone crazy,
Since my daughter aspirated her own blood
Up inside a steel needle
Before she shot up.”

Chapin predominately writes in conversational, open verse, and her poetry is raw and powerful. Paddle to Paddle is, at its heart, about striving to be a better mother. Its resonating personal message and pragmatic feminism are powerfully compelling.


Reviewed By:

Author Lois Chapin
Star Count 4/5
Format eBook
Page Count 152 pages
Publisher Nightingale Rose Publications
Publish Date 20-Sep-2019
ISBN 0978047348982
Amazon Buy this Book
Issue September 2019
Category Poetry & Short Stories
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