Moth at the Window
by Mary Lachman
reviewed by Barbara Bryner 3/15
Prompted by the discovery of a decades-old cache of poems hand-written on scraps of paper, Mary Lachman has prepared a loving tribute to dentist and part-time minister Grover Washington Clayton, 1884-1959, a grandfather she never knew. The book is well-organized, beginning with a brief introduction to the history of Indiana, where Clayton's family had lived since the 1840's. Lachman has grouped Clayton's poems thematically between prose sections of her own memories of visits to her mother's family. The text is illustrated by many family photographs and some paintings, most notably “Moth at the Window” by the author's son.
The insight into her grandfather's life provided by his poems is an enviable heritage to his descendants. Trying to discern a man's inner life through his poetry may lead to intriguing differences of opinion. Since many of the poems are undated, it must be difficult if not impossible to correlate poetic topics to known life events.
Some of the poems especially appealed to me: “Apologia”, “Room Within the Heart”, “Reflections on a New Year's Eve” and “Introspection”. Others seemed trite or obscure. Any study of the development of writing style and ability is hindered by lack of dates. Clayton must have been a modest man writing for his own satisfaction, not for posterity!
The book could have benefited by closer proof-reading in both prose and poetry sections. However, some of what I perceived as misspelling or awkward word usage may be a result of the difficulty of deciphering the hand-writing. Or it may be a difference in interpretation. (For example, is the title “The Mountain Trial” a misspelling-- or a play on words? Regardless, Lachman has produced a remarkable labor of love.