Friday, December 14, 2012

Suzy Bertsche responds to a poem by Amy Ratto-Parks

Unearthing “Evidence”:  Amy Ratto-Parks’ Poetry

We all have different reasons for reading novels, short stories, essays, or poems. No matter why we read, we often find pleasure when something on the page mirrors our own experiences that we had never put into words. This is how I felt reading Amy Ratto-Parks’ poem “Evidence.”

At first I couldn’t pinpoint why I felt a kinship with the poem, but I was compelled to reread it after the last word. The way the poem starts in the middle of a thought, “Never mind. I am a fast healer,” invited me to keep reading and finish the conversation. The four sections of the poem illuminated themselves as ruminations on the process of healing and the scars or “evidence” left behind. Each section details a method of recovery or protection, “My grandmother... collecting gold candy wrappers,” or “My sister” who “convinces herself that she is a cool glass bowl.” The poem demonstrates how we all have our own ways of curing and shielding ourselves from physical and emotional pain.

As I read and underlined “the yellow process of cleansing” and circled an “old scar” being the “skin’s hem-stitched evidence of something too rough,” I reached into my sweater pocket and pulled out an old tissue and three blue cough drops. The tissue and the cough drops were my own “gold candy wrappers” and “cool glass bowl,” they were the “evidence” of my grandmother. In the nine months since her death I hadn’t cleaned out the pockets of her sweater. Ratto-Parks’ poem explained why I hadn’t tossed the cough drops. On the page were words that described how I felt about the tissues, and why I still had the scar.

Ratto-Parks encourages her readers to enter into the musings of her poems. Her use of the prose poem results in her pieces being accessible to nervous readers (like myself) who may be uncomfortable with the meaning of line breaks. The concrete images and conversational tone allows readers to take from her poetry what they want and need. The mystery of my first read of “Evidence” drove me to keep reading and find my own remnants of healing. The thrill of poetry by writers like Ratto-Parks is the possibility to reveal something within the words that uncovers facets of the reader’s life.


Suzy Bertsche is a senior at the University of Montana double majoring in Creative Writing and Social Work with a minor in South and Southeast Asian Studies. She was born and raised in Missoula, Montana

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