The Mercy of Traffic, by Wendy Taylor Carlisle
Review by Julie Carpenter
The poetry reading muse is almost as fickle as the poetry writing muse. You read yourself into poetry, fill out its corners with your soul. So, reading in a bad mood, a good mood, the wrong, or right time of day, can really make or break your reading experience. You can read a poem after driving through rush hour traffic, and it leaves you cold, read the same poem after a glass of wine and see the beauty of it. But sometimes you read a chapbook that resonates at your harmonic frequency no matter when you read it. I read this book over several days, stopping to savor specific poems and found myself caught in its rhythms every time I picked it up.
True to the title, the words in this book move like car tires rolling over the interstates and back roads of the south. They capture movement – even when they are short and succinct as in the wonderful, tiny, gem of a poem “Vacation” which hints at the ripple effect travel and even a short displacement can have on a relationship. Every poem has a sense of the value of time. Every poem makes the most of the details of the physical world as they fly by whether through physical space or as the moments pass.
In her poem, Of Motion, she says,
In the dream, I am
always in motion, always
leaving or arriving, traveling
This particular piece captures the cadence of the entire chapbook. Though the reader can feel the movement, she manages to capture and distill moments and sensory details with precision. As we travel with her through time, we see all that she sees. What her eye catches, she depicts with deceptive simplicity. The pictures she portrays may be of everyday objects, but upon a second glance they are replete with meaning, pulling emotion from the reader’s own experience. Nuanced thought trails in the wake of each poem revealing the complexity of her vision.
For me this chapbook felt like a meditative journey. It has the same odd clarity that travel often brings, seeing a world, both new and somehow continuous, through the car window with every mile.
Julie graduated from Tennessee Weslyan with a BA in English Literature, and she has an MA from University of Memphis in Professional Writing. She was accepted to the Writer’s Hotel in 2016 and 2017, serving as as a teaching assistant in 2017. Julie is a Pushcart nominee for “Letter to Essie” in the New Guard Anthology VII, and has published four stories at Fiction on the Web. She will have a short story collection , Things Get Weird in Whistlestop, published with Poetic Justice Press later this year. She is currently working on a novel called “Last Train Out of Hell.” She can often be found blogging here on the Sacred Chickens website along with her cats, Uncle Morty and Jarad. (Actually, the cats don't blog. They're amazingly lazy.)