Erin Carlyle’s debut poetry collection, Magnolia Canopy Otherworld, released from Driftwood Press in December 2020, and it’s been a source of catharsis for us all 2021 long so far. This collection shines in its imagery without taking itself too seriously; it allows the images room to breathe and create their own worlds. In this way, Carlyle stays true to the collection’s name. These worlds not only transport the reader into them but also transfigure the reader with each word so as to help the reader adapt to them. This book is both Genesis and Revelations, and you’ll enjoy every word of your Exodus into it.
In the collection’s pseudo-title poem, which is also its final poem, “The Afterlife of Women,” Carlyle roots Magnolia Canopy Otherworld in a sense of unnerving nostalgia. She writes, “In this place/we all linger then disintegrate./I think I smell the oldest/danger in the air—magnolia on the wind./I think I hear my mother calling: get home.” The striking feelings throughout the collection come from moments like these—moments innately human, moments shared between people, moments zeroed in on specific memories and events, memories that are relatable yet distinct.
The relationship between this otherworld and the innately human is seen again in the poem “The In-Between.” The poem’s speaker shares a memory with the reader of a time she shared with her mother. Set in the otherworld, this memory poignantly combines the everyday with mystical images and diction to anchor the poem in both reality and the otherworld. It’s precisely this that this collection does so well. This collection is human, it’s magic, it’s simultaneously explorative and self-assured.
Finally, as always, we’ve chosen an excerpt from one poem to end with. This comes from the poem “On the Horizon of Recollection” and stands out as a perfect example of how this collection keeps the reader on the edge of their seat.
A circle of women in the creek
raise you up, their skirts a white blur
in the water—milk. This is not a baptism,
but a call back to your life after you crawled
out of the cave of your mother,
that old danger…”
As always, don’t forget to tweet us @Fuzzable with all of your thoughts on Erin Carlyle’s debut poetry collection Magnolia Canopy Otherworld, and don’t forget to read or watch more poetry in general. Words keep the world moving.