Review of Mood Swing, with Pear

Mood Swing, with Pear

Like Gifts You Never Asked For: 
Sue MacLeod's Mood Swing, with Pear

Sue MacLeod’s poems in Mood Swing, with Pear, her third book of poet­ry, dance down and across the page. In turns play­ful and dead­ly seri­ous, tack­ling top­ics rang­ing from can­cer to car­ry­ing a heavy flow­er­pot, MacLeod often stretch­es out lines and phras­es to cre­ate spaces for the read­er to pause and con­sid­er, to fill in and imag­ine, to breathe. Nine of the poems are found poems — or “com­piled poems” — as she calls them in the notes, and just as many are ekphras­tic in some man­ner, riff­ing off art­work, pho­tos, or lines from lit­er­a­ture. MacLeod writes the domes­tic and mun­dane the way painters approach scenes like a woman in a bath­tub or a still life of a fruit bowl, as repeat­ed attempts to “get it right”:

   the delicate detailing
   of collarbone,
   how this is not diminished
   Who else could see her in this light?

The beauty of unhinging lines in a poem, of unhooking the narrative thread and giving it some slack, is that the reader can see what the poet sees — gems and beads on a blank white cloth. As MacLeod writes, “There is no need for essay // every detail was the best of its kind — // the pond, old sheds, & the very ducks themselves.” [...]

Luckily, there are many instances of strong writing throughout Mood Swing, with Pear. At the end of “The Rightful,” “the moon is pouring silver buckets on the water now. The shirts / are iridescent on the line and the man I am about to meet is on his way / to claim them.” And in her poem, “Counting down (an invitation?)”
because of twilight:

   birdsong at your window, glass
   of Jameson on the side, angular line of your
   wrist, light burnishing the fine
   dark hairs, that time when everything is oiled, about
   to turn

Macleod’s poetry finds strength in the personal. Poems like “The aunts & the uncles, they wouldn’t sit still for their pictures but I caught them anyway,” “Through the swinging door,” and her long poem at the end of the book, “Where the sound comes through,” touch the reader, and are like “this gift they left you / that you never / asked for.”

— Al Rempel ARC Poetry Magazine

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