Many things steal their way into a poem until it starts to breathe on its own. I believe Thomas Wolfe when he said "I am a part of all that I've touched and that has touched me," because if it's a good day, this happens intuitively. If not, it may take years to get it right. Or never. Although the seeds, the genesis, of my poems are varied, I've discovered that if I shut out the world and dive deep enough, I become the poem. And in the becoming, I am transformed.
— Laura Treacy Bentley
Laura’s love of the people and landscapes of West Virginia, western Maryland, and Ireland is evident in her work. From earth to sky, this collection of poems merges a lake effect of meditations that creates its own weather.
Praise for Lake Effect
"Everywhere I look these days no poetry is being written. There is a lot of pretend poetry, but nothing really this fine. With this book it makes it very easy for me to say: Laura Bentley, I dub thee poet supreme.”
— Ray Bradbury
"Laura Bentley's eye is drawn to what others often overlook or refuse to examine, the detritus and back rooms and alleyways of a frightening and frightened world. Here are portraits of the broken and the maimed; here are narratives of hopelessness and redemption; here are strong lyric engagements with landscape; and here is the solace of geological time. This book charts a pilgrim's journey in language with growing assurance and control. It is a journey already rich with achievement."
— Paula Meehan
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Reviews of Lake Effect
Strange Weather (Reprinted with permission from Small Press Review)
By Edwina Pendarvis
Laura Treacy Bentley’s new book, Lake Effect, takes its title from a natural phenomenon in which local rain or snowfalls, sometimes accompanied by thunder and lightning are created by air moving across the surface of the lake. In so naming her book, Bentley identifies succinctly what good poetry does—creates its own atmosphere. This collection, published by Bird Dog Publishing, an imprint of Bottom Dog Press, does create its own weather. The atmosphere the poems create results from the author’s unique aesthetic, which finds a shivery beauty in strangeness and which confines sentimental impulses with a fine and lacy dusting of wit. Many of the poems have appeared elsewhere, in little magazines in the USA and in Ireland, but together their effect is amplified.
Bentley lives in West Virginia, and her work often has the directness and clarity of voice that characterizes so much of the poetry from Appalachia. Her work differs, however, in that its main concern is not with place or the quotidian world. Rather, her poetry is a poetry of possibilities and of fantasy—readers will understand why science fiction and fantasy author Ray Bradbury likes her work so much. Her poems create a sense of mystery and wonder even when they are about mundane things. The collection is populated with ordinary folk living alongside strange and fantastical characters, like the “pheasant grandfather” and the surrealistically treated shades of poet Sylvia Plath, the Marlboro Man, Lewis Carroll’s Alice, and Joan of Arc. Phantasms occupy the material world and change its nature, as in the following excerpt from “Weeding the Garden with St. Joan”:
Pensive, she stares at nimbus clouds
and whispers Catherine,
Michael, and Margaret to the honeysuckle vines.
The Maid is not pulling her weight.
I hold my tongue, and remind myself
that she is, after all, a saint.
I rake impatiently at dead leaves,
my broken nails rimmed with humus,
mosquitoes singing descants in my ears.
Crawling between the rows,
I clear royal purple eggplant
and virgin zucchini of wind-scattered invaders.
A fleur-de-lis appears in her hand ...
What’s new about Bentley’s poetry is the delicacy with which she balances wit, mystery, and the ordinary. Her work creates a feeling of suspension, as though one is caught in an upward flurry of snow. The whole collection has something of the feel of a haibon, a form that strings together journal entries and haiku. It immerses us in a world that is both natural and phantasmagorical by suggesting the author’s own simultaneous sensations of alienation and immersion, as shown in this excerpt from her magical tale of swimming in the city pool as a child:
The pool was painted eyeshadow blue.
Under its bright waters,
I swam with my eyes open,
until my body was steeped in chlorine:
Pale lips trembling, eyes squinting pinkeye,
hands and feet marbled with wrinkles.
And if it rained a thunderless rain, I stayed in,
the pool warm as bath water
under the icy raindrops.
“The Quiet Zone: Green Bank Observatory”
Laura's poem “The Quiet Zone: Green Bank Observatory” is featured on a poster with a photo of the Green Bank Telescope, the world’s largest steerable radio telescope.
Posters are available in the observatory’s Galaxy Gift Shop.
Hours: 10:00am – 4pm
Contact: Anna Dickenson
Galaxy Gift Shop
NRAO, P.O. Box 2
Green Bank, WV 24944