The Woman Has A Voice

Poetry of Woman Becoming
Deborah M. Priestly, Ibbetson Street Press (2004). 106 Pages

Illustrated by Lauren Geraghty and Christopher Fahey

Review by Timothy Gager

Deborah Priestly has a voice. It is one of the strongest poetic voices in the Cambridge community. It is the voice of a poet, a voice of one whom has suffered, healed, and risen above. She writes with pure, unbridled emotion. She reflects upon love, lust, sexuality, pain, abuse, epilepsy and finally, as she writes, being grounded. It is a voice to be reckoned with.

A Woman Has A Voice is a book divided into ten sections. Each short and distinct section is illustrated beautifully by Lauren Geraghty. The artwork is something that blends itself well with the poetry, but it is reproduced in black and white. I wanted to see the works in full blooming color. Still, one can see that Geraghty is a talented painter, one whose work would be wonderful to view in person.

Priestly hits hard both spiritually and emotionally. Her subjects are often tough to wrestle with because of the personal nature of her work. In And Yet She Breaks: but then, slowly / before your eyes / she calmly gathers in her pieces / and smiles at you / through the tears and cuts / lovely, playful / and yet, she breaks. It is heartfelt and lovely. Priestly is also sensual. In the poem Wet Morning she writes, our hips kiss / like waves, fill and cry / we belong to this want / soft sweet fall, take wing.

Priestly is also able to show within her writing that there is a reflective, relaxed and gentle side to her. In a poem to her daughter, regarding her angelic singing voice, she muses, Life so passionate it rose quick like fire / Sending halos only God would touch. For her other daughter, When you were in my belly / your tiny elbow would trace / a bumpy path / from my middle to my chest / some said / it looked like / a doorknob moving / Now that you are grown / I look at you, smiling / and talking so fast / eyes flashing auburn / and I realize / you are in fact / the door.

The book then moves into the healing process. The final three sections focus on forgiving, faith, strength, and becoming one with the earth. This is Priestly showing us that through it all, she has not faltered. In these sections she indicates that she will never be down, her spirituality not just shining, but blasting through, loudly and clearly. She sums it up completely in the poem bearing the title of the collection, The Woman has a voice. / she makes love through her pen and paper / she has lived a million lives / and has died too many times to recall / and each time, she saves herself, / pure, unaffected but wise.

As I finish reading A Woman Has A Voice, I realize that I’ve worked on a project with this woman, know her from the Cambridge Poetry world, and I feel proud, while at the same time awkwardly awed by the shear magnitude and emotion of her poetry. I’m left with feeling that the poet has said something amazing, cathartic toward her own inner-peace and comfortable that her voice is left within the pages of home.

Timothy Gager is the author of Short Street and poetry book, The same corner of the Bar. He has co-edited The Out of the Blue Writers Unite, as well as The Heat City Literary Review.

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