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Sunday, November 29, 2020

Carole Mertz Enjoys Imagining Moby Dick with Poet Wilda Morris

Pequod Poems: 
Subtitle: Gamming with Moby Dick
by Wilda Morris
Genre: Poetry Collection
ISBN  9781949229608

Reviewed by Carole Mertz

It’s Fun to Go Gamming with Morris’s Pequod Poems

Wilda Morris’s latest collection, Pequod Poems, is delightful for its vibrant story telling through poetry. Its publication commemorated the 200th anniversary of Herman Melville’s birth. It consists of poems written in an outstanding variety of forms, some rarely used, and even some invented by the author. Each poem relates in some way to Melville and his famous whale and each one attests to Morris’s artistry and vivid imagination.

Organized into five sections. The poems in Part I introduce us to major characters in Moby-Dick treated here in unique fashion. Morris presents Ishmael by way of a Mesostic poem. In this form, all the printed characters of the epigraph weave vertically through the poem and form the sentence: “What a fine frosty night; how Orion glitters…” “Oceans” uses the Pleiades form, seven lines of six syllables each, in which the first letter of each line is from the poem’s title. “The Captain,” is rendered as a spiraling (and double) Abecedarian.

The full enjoyment of Morris’s poems derives not only from her abundant variety of poetical forms. Her clever wielding of content brings us so clearly into the whalers’ experiences. “A Pequod Sailor Speaks,” imagines the watery vistas the captain and crew might have seen.


Sudden winds bellow, curdle foam.

Sword-sharp, they rip the sails, shriek

and break the mast. Lightning stabs…


We read of Ahab considering the wind, learn  of Pip, the tormented cabin boy, and encounter poems written from the viewpoint of Ahab’s wife. Using the sestina, Morris describes Stubb pondering the shadows he sees


…when the Angel of Death knocks and I hear

the window of my life closing…//

…I try to be bold, look into the face of death.

Ahab vows the finish of the great white whale in “Prophecy.” In “White” we find “…like tempestuous / wind and breakers, the spun / water that the white whale / whipped into a fury…” The Captain’s monomaniacal quest to avenge himself of his dismemberer is ever present in the lines. 

In Part II, Morris uses the bouts-sonnet form, an erasure poem, the “a gram of &s” form, and other playful narrative styles, one of which takes end words from Shakespeare’s Sonnet No. 80. Throughout, the poet deftly maintains her theme.

The poet speaks in more philosophical tones in Part III. Here she sometimes addresses Melville directly. In Part IV, unexpectantly she brings out a bit of backtalk, assuming a new pitch. In “Meditation by the Water,” a speaker asks just what the psalmist means when he declares “the Almighty will keep you / under his wings.” And in “No Harm in Ahab,” a poem significant for our current times, Morris delves into the theme of evil and the question of righteousness.

Five poems in Part V bring the volume to a close. Here we come upon the “Golden Shovel,” the “lipogram,” and a form Morris herself devised.

With its rich content and variety, the skillful manipulation of words into logical form, and Morris’s imaginative imagery, Pequod Poems forms an engaging collection. One can read it for story, for reconnection with Melville’s novel, for pure delight in the richness of Morris’s descriptions, and for her skillful rhyming techniques. 

About the Author:

Wilda Morris serves a wide community of poets both through her own published poems, and through the many workshops and courses she has taught in Wisconsin, Illinois, and Iowa. In addition, she holds leadership positions in major artistic organizations throughout Illinois. These include the Illinois State Poetry Society and Poets & Patrons of Illinois, both for which she has served as president. 

About the Reviewer:

Carole Mertz, poet and essayist, has reviewed for Arc, Eclectica, Main St. Rag, The Bangalore Review, The Compulsive Reader, The League of Canadian Poets, World Literature Today, and elsewhere. She is the author of Color and Line, with Kelsay Books, 2021. Carole lives with her husband in Parma, OH. Her chapbook, Toward a Peeping Sunrise is available at Prolific Press.

View Carole’s writer profile at http://www.pw.org/directory/writers/carole_mertz

MORE ABOUT THE #SharingwithWriters BLOGGER

 Howard-Johnson is the multi award-wining author of fiction, creative nonfiction, and poetry. She is 
also a marketing consultant, editor, and author of the multi award-winning HowToDoItFrugally Series of books for writers including the multi award-winning The Frugal Book Promoter (http://bit.ly/FrugalBookPromoIII), now offered by Modern History Press in its third edition. Carolyn's latest is in the #HowToDoItFrugally Series of books for writers is How to Get Great Book Reviews Frugally and Ethically. Learn more on her Amazon profile page (http://bit.ly/CarolynsAmznProfile). Great Little Last Minute Editing Tips for Writers (http://bit.ly/Last-MinuteEditsII) is one of her booklets just released by Modern History Press in its second edition--perfect for inexpensive gift giving--and, another booklet, The Great First Impression Book Proposal (http://bit.ly/BookProposalsII) helps writers who want to be traditionally published. The Frugal Editor (http://bit.ly/FrugalEditor), now in its second edition, is the winningest book in the series. Carolyn also has three frugal books for retailers including one she encourages authors to read because it will help them convince retailers to host their workshops, presentations, and signings. It is A Retailer’s Guide to Frugal In-Store Promotions: How To Increase Profits and Spit in the Eyes of Economic Downturns with Thrifty Events and Sales Techniques (http://bit.ly/RetailersGuide). Carolyn helps writers extend the exposure of their favorite reviews here at TheNewBookReview.blogspot.com. She also blogs at all things editing--grammar, formatting and more--at The Frugal, Smart, and Tuned-In Editor (http://TheFrugalEditor.blogspot.com)

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