The Transylvania Times -

By Susan Lefler
Review 

'In A Country None Of Us Called Home' Is Skillful – Brevard NC

 


Even if you do not normally read poetry, even if you feel intimidated by the idea of a poem, you will find “In A Country None Of Us Called Home” by Brevard’s Peg Bresnahan to be a book you can’t put down.

These skillfully crafted poems with their rich and wide-ranging language and subject matter are a complete delight. They literally document the world, from the rural or elderly residents Peg knows and loves, to the frozen lakes of her native Wisconsin, to scenes in countries where she has traveled, from Russia to Turkey, from Sri Lanka to the killing fields of Cambodia.

In the poem “Radium Girls,” Bresnahan documents the heart-wrenching story of young women who used radioactive paint not only to paint the watch dials in the Illinois factory where they worked, but also to paint their bodies, even their teeth, having no idea the “pure energy” that wrapped them so that “they glowed most beautiful in the dark” would doom them to early death.

A six line poem entitled “The Tooth” documents a single tooth in the killing fields of Cambodia.

“At the Sunny Ridge Retirement Center” tells the story of Frances, an elderly lady who died during the funeral of a friend, her head sinking down on the poet’s shoulder. The poem ends with “Frances’ navy blue crocs,/ the ones she claimed felt so much/ like bedroom slippers/ she could wear them anywhere.”

The poems are both masterful and accessible. They are by turns funny and deeply moving. There are poems about the “Cedar Mountain Smuckers Club” which only accepts members over 90, one set in a local beauty parlor, another at the “Wizard of Oz” movie with the poet and her granddaughter, another eavesdropping on fishermen in winter hanging out at Willie’s, a lakeside bar in northern Wisconsin. Then there are poems that make you weep, like “At the Cemetery in Green Bay” in the voice of a relative who searches the graveyard for her newly buried son. The poem ends with the son’s dog joining the search and the mother “carrying a pail of pansies, sweet/ alyssum and a trowel.”

And there is “Trigger.” Set in a local restaurant, the poem ends with the devastating memory of a Vietnam veteran who had seen a group of children from his patrol boat and thought they were swimming toward him, only to realize how wrong he was. “The children swam toward us. We never dreamed…we thought/ they were waving.”

Bresnahan, a native of Wisconsin, graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and received her MFA in poetry from Vermont College of Fine Arts in Montpelier. She began visiting Brevard in 1983. One of her four sons, Mike Nemeth, is owner and chef at the Jordan Street Café in Brevard. In 2003, she and her husband Dan Bresnahan, who is a sculptor, moved to Brevard permanently. This is her first full length book of poems.

Bresnahan will be launching the book at an event at Jordan Street Café in Brevard Sunday, April 13, at 5 p.m. She will be reading from the book at Malaprop’s bookstore in Asheville Sunday, April 27, at 3 p.m. The book is available at Highland Books in Brevard and Malaprop’s Bookstore in Asheville.

 
 

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