Oyster Boy Review 11  
  April 1999
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Margaret Rabb's Figments of the Firmament

Florence Nash

Figments of the Firmament.
Margaret Rabb.
NC Writers' Network, 1998.
28 pages, $5 (chapbook).

This little book is bursting with more poetry than you'd think its pages could hold. Rabb pours out pantoums, villanelles, sestinas, double sonnets, and (as with the lush "Rock Reader") what I take to be forms of her own devising. I'm reminded of English change-ringing: tuned sets of bells clanging and chiming out in apparent celebratory abandon, in fact strictly bound by traditional and formidably intricate patterns. But Rabb is not that strictly bound. She spins lavish, satisfying lines, flings monosyllables like Jackson Pollock flings paint (in the layered, shifting "Phantom Pantoum," for one). From wry, concrete domesticity, she levitates suddenly into her own visionary world of moth-wing and myth, "let loose / in beauty denser than what we perceive." In the front matter of this collection, which won the NC Writers' Network 1998 Harperprints Chapbook Award, Rabb mentions that some of these poems have received prior "recognition"; the acknowledgments then list ten separate awards. Not bad for a total of 18 poems. And, for these, not surprising.