Book Review   

Unsung Love Songs by Cristina M.R. Norcross, Lulu, 2010. $14

Reviewed by Kathleen Serley

In her introduction to Unsung Love Songs, poet Cristina M.R. Norcross writes that her collection of poems “celebrates the quiet, everyday moments of love...” It is a “a poetic journey through romantic love, familial love [and] universal love...”

Readers will relate to her description of young love in “The Dancers,”
            We are these three urgencies
            of longing, whimsy, and connected heat.
            You take me in your arms,
            and I know my feet will never touch the floor -
            in this life or the next. (5)

and acknowledge the mature love she discusses in “Take Two, They’re Small”

            If you looked closely,
            it was not just a a gathering of family and food.
            It was my grandparents’ courtship being played out every night -
            Bill’s winning charm—
            Josie’s shy appreciation.
            While daintily eating a cracker,
            a napkin held—just so—underneath,
            Josie would absentmindedly move her feet together.
            The slight squeak of the leather denoted a certain
            cat-like contentment.
            It is the understated happiness that I remember most,
            moving through the room on a warm breeze,
            and asking  you to—
            take two, they’re small. (p. 13)

But it is her descriptions of love in those everyday moments that draw us in.

            It is simply time for me
            to put my pen and paper away—
            to honor your Being
            in the same room with me. (67)

One of the strengths of Narcross’s love poems is the imagery she creates to capture the depth of the love she feels.

            You sit with your jacket on,
            and I watch your mouth,       
            as you unravel your day before me—
            a spray of daisies at my feet.

Reading these lines, I am reminded of what a gift it is for loved ones to come home and “unravel” their days before us.  These conversations are like a “spray of daisies.”

Strong images characterize the endings of her poems as well.  In “Taking Flight,” she recounts leaving on her honeymoon, ending with,

            One day we got married.
            One day we took flight. (21)

and in “Porch Light,” a description of finding time with her husband after they have put their two young sons to bed, she writes

            we pause for another sip
            from the porch at twilight. (34)

In each ending, she expresses strong feelings with simple words.

Although I appreciated Norcross’s skills as a poet and related to the situations she chooses to explore, I found the layout of the book distracting.  The font is too small for easy reading and some of the poems run over to a second page with just one or two lines. At times I thought I had finished reading a poem only to be surprised by another line when I turned the page. This layout, along with the small font size leaves a lot of white space on most pages which visually diminishes the poems. If I had been a casual reader, I might have been discouraged and missed the beauty of the poems.

Each poem in this collection has a special appeal, but “These Things Matter” captures the essence of this collection. We reach for love and must remind ourselves to find it in ordinary moments as they come to us in our imperfect lives.  We make love happen in the everyday events of our lives.

            You leave a mark even in your absence -
            an untidy, illegible tattoo,
            covered by a loose knit sweater.
            Too tied to feel like a solo beam—
            too disjointed to feel anything
            but a fleeting sense of continuity.

            Lives have lived—
            hearts chasing after meaning—
            the memory of how we pictured this journey.
            A faded photograph keeps losing its corners.
            All days filter into just forty-eight hours,
            like a tornado’s firm funnel.

            Casually we make promises
            and keep running.
            I rip open a seam
            and wait for all of this to escape—
            your desires,
            my dreams, a family growing out of its clothes.

            If I stop wanting so much,
            I will find all questions amusing—
            welcoming all interruptions with wonder.
            One day I will miss that my job begins and ends at 3a.
            I will miss tiny hands and feet
            crawling into my bed at night for comfort from all colds.

            Everything looks perfect from far away.
            To make each breath as perfect
            as the moment remembered,
            should be my goal.
            We leave a mark on ourselves,
            our loves,
            our children.
            Make this mark gentle—
            Make it worth remembering. (27)

Throughout this collection, I was impressed by the depth of love Norcross expresses.  This is love she gives and receives and love she witnesses. How fortunate to know such love to inspire her poems.  Unsung Love Songs by Cristina M.R. Norcross is worth remembering.

A lifelong resident of Wisconsin, Kathleen Serley enjoys all of our seasons: spring gardening, summer beach combing, fall hiking and winter snow shoeing. She teaches English.