The work in Martina Newberry’s poetry collectionWhere It Goes is so breathtaking in its variety and originality. In how well it reminds us that our memories can be as wonderful and dangerous as the reality staring us right in the face. The task of picking a favorite piece is a daunting one. Choosing one thing inWhere It Goes that will illustrate in every line how well Newberry crafts intensely introspective poems is next-to-impossible.
“Blooms” is a pretty good example, but it’s only one of the many gripping poetic stories and rich observations to be found. Even the shortest poems in the book leave a profound impression, and it’s more often the case than not that you’re going to want to read the piece again. Besides these stories and thoughts being engaging enough to warrant multiple visits, the motivation for rereading is simply that suspicion that you didn’t catch every detail the first time. Martina Newberry offers several poems here that feature short lines and sparse imagery. While those are no less intense than ones like “Blooms” and “Redhead”, it’s those longer works that will likely overwhelm your senses the most. Newberry presents poetry rich with reflections from past events in her life, and then blurs the lines of the reality of those memories. She uses a wide variety of literary tools to accomplish this, from illusory descriptions of people and places, to present-day musings on what these individuals and moments mean to her now. It’s because so much is going on in many of these poems, because of the way Newberry travels the distance of a lifetime in forty or fifty lines, the likely response to finishing one piece is going to an urge to read it again. Many of the works collected here move quickly, and the way they stop often amounts to a jarring return to the world beyond the page.
Don’t be surprised if you want to go straight back into a particular poem, but try to resist the urge. Like any poetry collection as superb at creating autobiographical material through stylized poetic verse as this one is, the best way to enjoy Where It Goes is to read it all the way through. It may take you a few days, as each poem feels a lot like an exhausting short story (in the best way possible), but the reward for going about this way is worth it. You get an impression of Newberry as interesting as the collection itself. What “6:30 A.M. July”, “Too Much Love Will Kill You”, “Anthem”, “…Said the Spider”, and several others do is introduce us to a writer able to live in the world, but then make visits to the fringes, in order to review everything properly. What those vacations to the world’s end of her specific world give us is dazzling again and again.
Not all the pieces are autobiography. Newberry draws from a miscellany that seems as comfortable with a story from her childhood, as it does with a short remark on a small, but powerful detail from her everyday life. It is this diversity that is perhaps the greatest strength of Where It Goes. Martina Newberry doesn’t live in the past, avoids repeating herself in the present, and doesn’t force us to consider every single possibility of her future. She will use one or two to feed and encourage the other. The past will inform the present, and it’s clear that Where It Goes benefits from this, but it can also suggest something that hasn’t happened yet. To a writer like Martina Newberry, everything is up for grabs, and poetry-wise, anything is possible. Writers like her remind us that when it comes to something like poetry, the bigger you can make your blank-page world, the more we as readers are going to benefit. Anyone fortunate enough to come across Where It Goes will benefit a great deal indeed.