Book Review

Grace Marie Grafton, Jester, Hip Pocket Press, 2013, by Cherise Wyneken

Grace Marie Grafton’s latest book of poetry, published by Hip Pocket Press, draws one in with its intriguing title, “Jester,” and by the colorful cover depicting a jester’s antics. Continuing in the mood of the title, the book is formatted in sections reminiscent of acts in an old-fashioned vaudeville show: Improv’, Impersonations, Singing the Blues, and Last Act.

One soon finds that the acts are not mere buffoonery, but poetry, giving us a picture of Grafton’s prowess of imagination and skill.  She becomes the jester herself as she puts words together in imaginative ploys.  Words that leap from the inspiration she found in a line or title of a poem, a piece of art, or its title.

In the first section, Improv’, “Flying home from a lost wedding” is the title of a poem by Rosmarie Waldrop.  Grafton’s version is an evocative example of an improvisation that suggests that everything has gone awry:  The hasp of the chest flew open when it/landed in the spring-awakened field and the whole town/and all its environs would become parade.

“Background” in Impersonation, depicts a woman’s picture of herself as a seventeen-year-old who thinks she is acting like a sophisticated woman.  It is a memory which she has taken with her all of her life where she says, there’ll always/be my youth as suggested from John Ashbery’s line about time: time that one seizes/and takes along with one is running through the holes

 “The Nude Out West,” is a perfect example of Singing the Blues taken from Joyce Treman’s painting “The Nude Out West.”  Here Grafton aptly makes us feel the nude’s regrets:

A fireplace and couch became
her cloister, for thirteen years she wept
about the time she’d wasted dressed in
black and white, then stood up and
taught herself to walk again.

In Last Act, from Claude Monet’s painting “On the cliffs – Dieppe” we are treated to “Maids’ afternoon off,” where through the eyes of the poem Grafton imparts how it would feel to be alive in that scene:  how they wish to dangle on ropes down/the steep rock drop, above dangerous water –  and They want to risk/coming near the monster, then escape,

Grafton’s poems are filled with splashes of bright colors and inventive specific images:  A motif of wildflowers, “Look,”/ I said, /they have owl’s eyes above the white/belly,” from the poem “Approach” for Melissa Kwasny.

We think of a jester as one who entertains.  Grace Grafton’s poems do just that.  The book is a work of art fit for a king.  I highly recommend it to all lovers and would-be lovers of poetry.


from Jester

Flying home from a lost wedding

The hasp of the chest flew open when it
landed in the spring-awakened field
two miles out of town near the willow-strewn
creek we remember catching frogs in.
The parachute bubbled down around it
but too late, the animal spirits had
escaped.  The air around the chest, around
the parachute’s silk, was in a dither,
worried that the music, too, would leak out,
which, of course, it did, slithering like some
slinky water creature heading for the creek
and, if it made it, the whole town
and all its environs would become parade.
The animal spirits would enter the bodies of
men who would feel compelled to drink
creek music.  Soon the hare would be
honking the cornet, the deer squeezing
out accordion wheezes and the sax –
well, you remember the dromedary
has been waiting since that instrument’s birth
to introduce to the world the Camel Rag.

            title from poem by Rosmarie Waldrop


Tired and retired from teaching and raising four kids, Cherise Wyneken turned to writing. She began by taking creative writing courses at South Florida universities. Selections of her prose and poetry have appeared in a variety of publications, two collections of her poetry, two poetry chapbooks, a memoir, novel, children’s audiocassette, and a children’s book