Ösel Jessica Plante gifts us a window into her own soul with her poetry collection Waveland. She writes from her own experience and relationships, so there is an added heartfelt layer to her recurring character of the Navy wife and her themes of leaving and being left. Love comes and goes in waves, and we often wonder what our lives could have or should have been, when one phase of life is over. These poems explore dating, divorce, and all the stages of togetherness and separation in between, in an ode to the struggle of “tak[ing] in the world / at its pleasurable best.”
Plante details the languid loneliness of living alone even in a marriage, not being touched in countless nights, and being involved with four men at once on the internet. She dedicates one poem to a lover’s initials carved into a tree, and another to burning a wedding dress. Anyone you love wields substantial power to make you smile or make you cry, and there is not one emotion or reaction to love that these poems do not reach.
There are “so many ways to die yet every day / she’ll live as if by habit… still in the habit of being in love.” Loving is a nearly impossible habit to break, especially after so many years. Plante’s own marriage to a Naval officer lasted ten years, and she writes with a deep balance of pain and solace that could only come with time. In these pages we follow a disjointed progression of moving on and falling backwards, and the tell-tale five stages of grief, all the way along the messy journey of healing and life beyond love.
We follow the body as rain and fire, as empty air and silence where it used to stand, something to collect and disassemble. The body is an object, a receptable to fill for another’s benefit, just something to dissociate from. Plante delves knowingly into the routine of washing your hair like it is someone else’s, believing in having more than one life, carrying the nails to your own coffin in your mouth. She confesses, “that is what I thought / life was, the exhaustion of giving yourself,” until you are a drained, hollow ghost. What more is there to live for, if not to use your life for another person? What would we do, if we all lived only for ourselves?
Sometimes we grow so consumed with our feelings that we walk through our lives hardly conscious of being alive. Sometimes heaven can be found in your own apartment, in the weeds and dust. Plante explores what God might see through an omniscient or half-blind eye, and how different this might be from the way we perceive our own lives. “Waveland” may be a morose testament to love at its worst, but it is also an encouragement to seek out love at its finest.
Keep up with Plante on her website https://oseljessicaplante.com to read about her background and upcoming work. She also has a poem prompt email list, for anyone to sign up to find their own voice through her inspiration.
(Black Lawrence Press, April 2021)
Bethany Crawford has studied both health science and creative writing, and currently works as a medical scribe in Alabama. She was once the poetry editor of Green Blotter Literary Magazine and read submissions for Spark: A Creative Anthology and Zetetic: A Record of Unusual Inquiry. She rants and shares photos of her ragdoll cats on Twitter @bethanylmary.