Inland Waterways: Poems from a Peaceable Kingdom is the debut of collection of poems from Ontario poet Linda Cassidy. The author has arranged her book into five different sections, each with named after a part of a river and each representing a different piece of the themes she is exploring. In my reading, I felt that in this collection the narrator is a woman who is struggling in a variety of ways with her place in society, as a mother, wife, housekeeper, and poet to name a few. Something else that is front-and-center in this collection is the notion of aging, how ultimately it is inevitable, and also how we are, hopefully, better people because of it.
Cassidy’s technique smoothly integrates the language and themes. Using, for the most part, traditional lyrical styling, she takes the small everyday, and sometimes mundane, actions that we do every day and extrapolates these into emotional meditations. A great example of this is in my favorite poem from the collection “Changing the Bed”:
I strip off the sheets
and lay bare on the mattress.
Its naked flesh bulges in spots
sags in others where the press
of warm bodies has worn it down.
Stripped clean of its clothing
no where to hide its imperfections
I’m embarrassed by its lack of dignity.
Here we have what is a typical household chore, making the bed. The author has transformed this. We see the bed exposed and the impressions of it occupants and as a metaphor of everything that has happened in it, on it, or because of it. These poems revolving around daily minutia are juxtaposed with poems that focus are larger and more important occurrences, child birth being one of the most important ones. And as I mentioned earlier, throughout the collection the idea of aging is essential to this collection working as it runs through multiple poems in each sequence, tying together the themes of other pieces.
Linda Cassidy has done a wonderful job in her first collection. Her poems are intimate, conversational, accessible, and easily readable. Everyday objects and images become symbols and metaphors in her hands. The author shows a little bit of honestly and openness in each line on things that many of us take for granted.
For more info on the author and her work, visit her website by clicking here.