Book Review: Girlie Calendar
by Mary Meriam
Headmistress Press, 2014
The Lillian Trilogy, Book 3
Reviewed by Kathleen Kirk, EIL Poetry Editor
Really, you could open this Girlie Calendar to any page, and it would be the perfect date. Today, a day in May, I opened it to a day in May, and “I got the moon,” via a simply glorious ghazal called “I wanted you” that begins:
I wanted you. Instead, I got the moon.
Who wouldn’t stop her rising? Not the moon.
And every second line of every couplet rhymes beautifully with “I got the moon,” as it should in a ghazal: “how hot the moon” (setting the song “How High the Moon” in motion on the turntable of my brain), “my cot, the moon,” and “who forgot the moon?” Girlie Calendar is full of Mary Meriam’s dexterity with rhyme, form, and line—the poems somehow free spirits on the various grids, just like free-spirited girl on the perfect cover of this book! (Flora, by Louise Abbéma. Slyly, the cover is a reverse image of the actual painting!)
These poems are so, so sexy and so, so smart. They make me want to be the “someone reading this” of the triolet “Red Kiss,” a sort of “daisy head” who will miss the poet “when [she’s] dead.” (I will, I would!) These poems take old forms and new, including invented forms, like the “sonneglige,” a “negligent sonnet” as described in the Notes at the end, “one that flirts with a past life” (as many of these poems do!), this one full of “O”s and a négligée. All the “old” forms sound new, made utterly contemporary by content and style, flair, joy, and woe. For example, you might not even recognize “Gaze” as a sonnet, perfect as it is.
And oh the amazonian old girl,
her polo collar straight up, and her eyes
averted from the inner-outer whirl
of actions indisputably unwise.
Administration, I believe? So clean,
her clothes, so crisp. An early seventies
collegiate scene, we cross the campus green,
and as we pass, I see her skin say please.
I’m sorry there’s no language round her lips.
Her walking on suggests that she’d prefer
to stay alone. Now fearful winter tips
my fancy back in time, I fancy her,
the model of restraint, the employee,
who’d never touch young lesbians like me.
Upon this re-reading of Girlie Calendar, near the cusp of June, I continued through the summer of this chronologically arranged collection, coming to the clever quatrain of July with joy and admiration:
July, come find me in the fish’s gill.
July, come splash and tip my quick canoe.
July, come whisper who is kind and true.
July, come when you willow, if you will.
Everything I encountered in this sitting romp through the book somehow fit my own circumstance, notably the middle of “The Romance of Middle Age.”
how people look away who once would look.
I didn’t know I’d undergo this change
and be the unseen cover of a book
whose plot, though swift, just keeps on getting thicker.
I have been reading Girlie Calendar for many days, weeks, months. Indeed, it was published in 2014, though I acquired it more recently. It is a constant and varied delight, with numerous surprises. I recommend it highly. And you might want to hurry and read it this summer (if you haven’t already, along with the other books in the trilogy) before Meriam’s next book appears in September, My Girl’s Green Jacket. I’ll hope to provide a more timely review of it here at EIL in the fall.