small spiral notebook
Wake Up Calls: 66 Morning Poems
By Wanda Phipps
Brooklyn, Soft Scull Press, June 2004
$13.95 82 pages
Reviewed by Jennifer Leblanc
In Wake Up Calls, 66 Morning Poems, Wanda Phipps explores her own fresh morning thoughts in this wonderful collection. Written each morning (or hung-over afternoon) Phipps mapped out her mind, body and city as a writer, woman and a New Yorker.
Her main theme is that of an urban female trying to reconcile her own creativity with the rushing modern world in which we live. Any writer reading these poems will feel as if Phipps has read their own hearts and expressed it for them. #19 is about escaping the daily grind with literature (Anne Rice and Allen Ginsburg, to be exact). #8 concerns “things needing/ to be done needing/ mind space.” In #54 she communicates the fears of every female writer:
Will there be time
To do my hair
Check my email
Write my opus
Have a baby
Acquire a career
Erase my doubts.
And then there is the eloquent simplicity of #26: “Today is not a day for poetry.” We understand.
Her New York Setting adds greatly to her poems when she describes her Chelsea neighborhood, the subway, even a movie set.
Although not all of the poems fit into a certain mold, they still stand out on their own. In # 27, for instance, Phipps recounts the diversity of her ancestors, their choices and paths and their effect on her own existence. #44, one of the shorter and simple less complex poems, paints a picture of her cat sitting on her computer, which any pet owner will love.
There are more universal pieces included. #23 and 27 deal with fears and regrets, respectively, that are both uniquely hers but commonly felt by everyone. Everyone has a place they wish they had stayed in or left; a person to love more or less; roads not taken in life.
The refreshing feel about this collection comes from Phipps, fresh out of sleep, suddenly conscious, writing suddenly and honestly, not edited or influenced by a day load of thoughts and experiences. Each poem is the literary equivalent of seeing the poet without her make up and hair done. There is no hesitation. This is a woman going forward into day through her art.