by Ruth Williams

Review by A. N. DeJesus

Flatlands by Ruth Williams
Ruth Williams
(2018, Black Lawrence Press)
$15.95, paper

The relationship between landscape and self-identity are often more deeply intertwined than we can imagine. In Flatlands, Williams explores this link between her developing sense of Self and her life in the flat expanse of plains in Nebraska. The poetic landscape of this collection cultivates surprising language and musicality of verse, allowing for the fundamental truths of Williams’s life in the plains to be illuminated with beautifully wrought images.

In “Physiography,” Williams writes:

the pat of a hand
on your head. A good girl,
a slicing edge. Like a scythe
through grass you learn to love
the sound of cutting hair…

The complexities of girlhood in rural life are fleshed out in this piece with the unexpected juxtaposition of violence and passivity. The underlying toxicity of learned submission is plainly evident without discounting the complications of familial tradition. The piece ends with the lines,

so being put in your place
is like a cross on your flat back.

The finality of these closing lines is palpable. Williams refrains from the use of flowery language and instead opts for simplicity. The jarring image of crucifixion communicates how natural submission and complacency become in an environment where it is expected and enforced as a community unto young girls and women.

Flatlands is rife with revelations of the ramifications this kind of upbringing has on the development of her identity as an individual, and as a woman. Understated and subtle, the poems themselves take root. Whether you live in a bustling city, a sprawling suburb, or a cottage on the cape, this book is an invaluable window onto life in a place where each sunset and sunrise send the earth aflame as far as the eye can see.

Published in Cider Press Review, Volume 21, Issue 3.

A N DeJesusA. N. DeJesus is a technical writer and poet out of Kansas City, MO pursuing an MA in Literary Theory at the University of Missouri-Kansas City. Her work appears in the Los Angeles Review, Bear Review and Anti-Heroin Chic Magazine.

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