Review by Julianne Carew
Drop and Dazzle
At once transient and yet powerfully grounding, Peggy Dobreer’s poetry collection, Drop and Dazzle, leads readers through an assemblage of life’s most defining moments, including birth, death, and every human emotion that can be found in between. By contrasting the intimacies of everyday life with the vastness of the universe, Dobreer successfully encapsulates the intensity of the corporeal experience, while at the same time making it clear that “we are stardust, hardly a thought, a fleeting note on its way to a verse or song.”
From the collection’s first poem, “Climbing the Moment of Birth,” Dobreer emphasizes an internal relationship with the outside world, and the impact this has on an individual. She states, “On a war-tired base, under desert skies, the only thing I remember of my birth is the smell of death.” By sensually connecting the first moments of existence with the reality of its imminent conclusion, Dobreer stresses the immediacy of life, the fragility of all that it has to offer, and sets the stage for the work that follows.
Sprinkled throughout Drop and Dazzle is the subject of continuity, and how the creation of something inevitably marks the beginning of its end. In “Genesis,” Dobreer writes, “Like, force, it has no opposition/until something moves against it.” In poetically highlighting the natural observer effect that humanity unconsciously adheres to, Dobreer emphasizes the simple fact that life has meaning because we provide it. Life, storytelling, the very idea of artistic expression, it is all a way of reacting to a force in which we have no control over. Dobreer follows up with this concept in a later poem, “Ashes to Ashes,” which concludes with the phrase, “You can finally forget the world, return unto the earth.”
In conjunction with thought-provoking, philosophical concepts, there are many sobering moments throughout the collection that speak for the immense struggles of the human experience. In “The Hands of Glory,” Dobreer brings attention to the obscured focus of public opinion when she describes a public execution. After a man is put to death and his handkerchief is stolen, “the execution crowd disbursed, they mourned the loss of the miracle, maybe more so than the life of the man on the rope.” On a more personal note, she later continues, “I checked. My breath was there/becoming deeper, more pronounced, the way breath will in the presence/of a body without one gasp left.”
In short, Drop and Dazzle lives up to its title. At once dazzling and thought-provoking, Dobreer’s ethereal literary voice leaves readers breathless, feeling at once empowered, and humbled within the star-studded universe she creates within the constructs of a page.