Tuesday, March 17, 2015

New Review "Moth at the Window" by Barbara Bryner

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.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

New Review of "Moth at the Window" posted on Barnes & Noble.com

Shared here a new review posted at Barnes & Noble.com by Kathrin Lassila Day - March 2015

"This sweet, moving book is filled with poetry and an especially personal variety of history.

Mary Lachman (a friend of mine) has combined her grandfather’s poems—a trove she discovered after his death—with her own childhood vacation experiences of the region where he lived. His poems are an intimate autobiography; her stories give us the day-to-day scenes of family life that, though they usually see print only in biographies of eminent figures, make up so much of the culture of a particular place and time.

In the case of Moth at the Window, the place is southern Indiana and the time the mid-twentieth century (with glances back to earlier generations). Every chapter provides poems of a particular theme, along with Mary’s memories.

Mary gives us just enough wonderful vacation scenes to make us wish for more. She had an uncle who “would spread peanut butter on sliced Vidalia onions.” She had an aunt whose bathroom was done completely in pink, from the tile to the rug to the faux-fur cover over the toilet lid. She and her brother were at her step-grandmother’s house one day when an auburn piglet wandered into the yard. Mary and her brother chased it ferociously, and must have come incredibly close to catching it, but the pig “scrambled and squealed and scampered into little crannies between bushes that we children could never fit through.” They lost the race, to their deep chagrin.

Mary’s grandfather, Grover W. Clayton, was a high school principal and a dedicated amateur poet—which today sounds like an incongruous combination, but it shouldn’t. There are more than 80 poems in this book, and although Clayton wasn’t Shelley (and who among us is?), he wrote poems of wisdom and feeling that show us a man with a great heart. The book has love poems, religious poems, poems about nature, meditations on death and loss—including the death of Clayton’s infant son—and many poems in which one watches a human being sorting out his values, choices, and path through life.

A few excerpts:

“The crown of life is confidence of friends.
It may be earned, but never bought nor sold.”
“Though it may seem to be a paradox,
We only keep the love we give away.”
“When the sun has set
And men view my life
In its afterglow,
May they truly say
They have lost a friend.”

Thank you, Mary, for a book full of warmth."

~And thank you Kathrin for your words!