Toni Partington reviews Brittney Corrigan’s book Navigation (The Habits of Rainy Nights Press, 2012)

Navigation  by Brittney Corrigan

The Habit of Rainy Nights Press, Portland, OR, 2012

103 pgs.

Brittney Corrigan has “carried water” in the fine tradition of her roots, just like the two hundred year old aqueducts in Turin, Italy that were lovingly built by her grandmother’s ancestors. Her opening poem, “Aqueducts,” is our first image in a journey that connects four distinct chapters. Ms. Corrigan’s stalwart collection navigates life in an honest and lucid voice. She takes us places and we go willingly.

Navigation will keep your feet on the ground while you fly. In a poem about her grandfather, “The Navigator’s Triangle,” she tells us that, “Our necks should be built for looking upward…” Then, takes us into imagination and memory: “And I imagine my grandfather standing under this sky alone: his head rocked back onto his spine like a fallen star, his hands opening into emptiness, looking up.”

Ms. Corrigan’s poems throw the windows wide open to let the wind inside. Like the wind, they are unpredictable and refuse to hide. In “Grandmother’s Italian,” we can hear the musical sound of her fleeting native language: “Years of marriage like rows of spices, rows of slender shoes—her letters ground like peppercorns into perfect syllables of sound. Now he corrects her perfect pronunciation…agreeing to his own southern letters. Her syllables fall silent, her feet sit like spice jars, racked.”

Navigation takes us places. We feel like welcome guests who’ve been invited to join a family as they inhabit several family homes. We walk through many doors to meet dramatic weather, a stunned bird, nests, islands and one small, first apartment. In amazement we realize how cleverly the narrator has blended her poetic juice with the Portland rain. But it is the poem “Denver’s Rain that catapults me to the mile high city. Ms. Corrigan describes a gutter in front of her home that, “had a section wide and deep as the bowl of a pelvis, rimmed with asphalt that softened in the heat…” And I was there, right there until she slid me into her mother’s Colorado garden where “my sister and I saved the tumbleweeds for as long as we could…until the snow came and found them huddled there together, curling into each other the way a baby holds on to a thumb.” That’s when I realized I’d been holding my breath. It was as if the poem said, you can breathe now.

Brittney Corrigan’s Navigation is a deeply moving tribute to home, family, grief, adjustment, motherhood, and adventure. Her poems invite you to see and feel a startling momentum. This book is one for poets and fans of poetry. You will be mesmerized as Navigation takes you by the hand and leads you into the heart of this writer.

Book Review by Toni Partington

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