The Red Petticoat: A Collection of Poems

This illustration is from a 1905 book of Irish legends, Celtic Myth and Legend, by Charles Squire.

By Joan Slowey

People sometimes ask what the difference between prose and poetry is. Certainly the lines between these two forms have blurred in modern times, but generally a reader expects prose to have literal significance and poetry to have an emotional component. It would be good to keep this distinction in mind as you read Joan Slowey’s The Red Petticoat.

Joan Slowey’s poetry is personal and yet it has the kind of emotional resonance that echos in the ear and the heart of the reader. Ms. Slowey draws upon her experience. The tone of her work tends to be reflective as she looks back over a lifetime of joy, love, and loss. She uses language that has significance for her, that draws upon her Irish roots. Gaelic words pepper her writing, as do characters from Irish lore. At one point she writes an entire haiku in Gaelic. This is her heart and her psyche speaking, of her tradition and to her tradition. All of it works.

Ms. Slowey covers a variety of subjects. In each case there is evidence of a mature intelligence and a deep empathy. Ms. Slowey has witnessed the full cycle of life and is coming to terms with her place in that cycle. In Minus One, for example, she mourns the passing of her “own particular Adam.” Her “magic circle” has been broken and she wonders


Two of my favorite poems draw upon her insight as a sentient observer.  One haiku, for example, notes the slime of a snail on her patio and ends with the line, “Well, snails must live too”.   Another, more thought-provoking piece contemplates a creature even more despised than the snail: a flasher.  In this poem, entitled, The Flasher, she lends complexity to a subject most of us dismiss out of hand.  What is the dark secret behind such a low act?  She wonders, as the poem draws to an end,

‘Did he shake with wicked glee?” or did he “Turn away to hide?”

The Red Petticoat is a slim volume. Its brevity invites a leisurely read, and perhaps a re-read.  If you indulge in this temptation you’re bound to find a gem, one poem that resonates with you as so many in this collection did with me.

I highly recommend Joan Slowey’s The Red Petticoat.


A. G. Moore 9/2016


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