Saskatchewan Sage Review - Crooked Good
Reviewed by: Cheryl Petten
The Crooked Good, the latest book by Louise Halfe, or Sky Dancer, is a story of family unity and dysfunction, told through a series of poems. The narrator of the collection, Turn-around Woman, shares with the reader pieces of her life and the lives of her family-mother aspin, or Gone-For-Good, father or White Hair, sisters Three Person and brothers Mechanic and.
Theirs is a tale filled with love and violence, sorrow and laughter, regret and longing, and stories passed on from mother to daughter. The book is filled with these stories, but one in particular wraps itself around the tale being told, appearing and re-appearing throughout the book-that of Rolling Head, a woman who took a snake as a lover and was punished for it by her husband, who killed his wife, the serpent, and the children created by their illicit union, severing all of their heads. The woman's head continues on without its body, becoming Rolling Head, a spirit being.
Aspin shares the story with her children, and the tale stays with throughout her life. Rolling head becomes advisor - her sanctuary - her weaver of dreams. The title comes from a passage in one of the poems that appears early on in the book, in which she introduces herself to the reader."I am not a saint. I am a crooked good. My cousins said I was easy, therefore I've never been a maiden. I am seventy, but still I carry my sins. Brothers-in-law I meet for the first time wipe their hands as if I am still among the maggots. I didn't know their women wept when their men slept in my bed. I am not a saint".
In The Crooked Good, Halfe uses her words to tell a story that touches both the mind and the soul. Each new poem advances the telling, but much of the understanding is emotional rather than intellectual - the reader processes the words as a narrative, but the experience is made all the richer by the feelings the poetry inspires.
The Crooked Good is Halfe's third book of poetry. The first, Bear Bones & Feathers, was published in 1994 and earned Halfe the Canadian Peoples Poet Award. Her second book, Blue Marrow, released in 2004, was a finalist for the Governor General's Award for Poetry and the Saskatchewan Book of the Year. The Crooked Good was released in November, too early for any accolades to yet come its way, but come they certainly will. Review by Cheryl Petten.