(Masterpieces of Women's Literature)

The most striking characteristic of these poems is the vigorous use of extension, by means of which metaphors and concepts are given full carrying power and amplitude. For example, the sound of buoys and bells appears as a leitmotif representing frozen moments in time. Ubiquitous plants and birds symbolize raw elements of human emotion. Women’s work is cataloged, and diligence and labor are given epic stature. Insects and flowers are magnified. Landscapes are projected into memory. The poet’s personal shatterings and dilemmas are universalized into archetypes of bewilderment. The poetry is loaded with associations and suggestions, as in “Antiquity unshrouds on wimpling canvas,/ adjunct of schoolhouse make-believe” (“Imago”). “Wimpling canvas” is typical of Clampitt’s inventiveness, since the playful, clever “wimpling” conjures an image of heavily draped art that allows ancient (“dead”) history to unfold in the mind of an elementary school student taught by nuns wearing “wimpled” habits.

Other extrapolations include westward trekking—associated with the forced migrations of American Indians. Water is identified with music, as in “tambourines of rain” (“The Edge of the Hurricane”). In part 2, there are numerous ghostly presences. Memory is connected to physical movement—“the ancestral flyway” (“A Procession at Candlemas”). Destruction is related to “the unseen filament . . . that runs/ through all our...

(The entire section is 549 words.)