All Souls’ Rhea Tregebov
Signal Editions $18.00 paper 78pp 978-1-55065-338-0
By Bert Almon
Rhea Tregebov’s work, All Souls’, is today’s music and very listenable. Like Glickman, she is clearly (and admits to being) “of a certain age” and aware of the infirmities of the body. Both poets were born in 1953, baby boomers like Nepveu. Boomers don’t need seminars on retirement; they need seminars on caring for what a Dickens character affectionately calls the “Aged Parent.” Tregebov laments the aging of her parents in a series of poems focused on family dinners, a very effective strategy for exploring the intimacies of relatives over a long period. The last family dinner is a brief glimpse of the father cinched in a Geri Chair near the nurses’ station, courteously offering to share his Spanish rice. The brevity generates the pathos. The concluding poem, “Abundance,” is a stunning look at the Old Jewish cemetery in Prague, where the dead were buried in twelve-deep layers. The title of All Souls’ hits home with this scene of community in death. “The streets of the living are among the streets of the dead,” the poem says. The Book of Common Prayer puts it in a similar way: “In the midst of life we are in death.” The tragic history of the Jews in Prague is the unspoken background of the poem. The conventional image of grapes on a tombstone is an ironic symbol of abundance in an area packed with the dead. Another gravestone, commemorating a tailor, has a pair of shears, perhaps an echo of the shears of the Fates. On a less sombre note, Tregebov’s gardening poems (Boomers like to garden, it seems) are excellent. She also has three fine works about spices. She tells us that vanilla, which is used to flavour white ice cream, comes from the blackest of fruits. With such paradoxes the poet flavours the world.