In the new chapbook Quicksand, by Julie Stevens, published by Hybriddreich, there is a line in the opening poem that reads ‘I’m a factory working hard to produce a mystery, a collection of broken parts awaiting an answer…’ and this is indeed a collection of broken parts but it delivers its message clearly and its truth shines on every line, in every carefully chosen word, in the strength of each poem to be able to stand alone as well as accepting the support of the collection because, of course, what writer is not happy when allowed to sit and ponder and put pen to page. But, when the only option you have is to sit and ponder and put pen to page, then things change. Julie has had MS for 30 years now which means she cannot run or race or climb or dance. But here, in Quicksand, that is what the words do instead and she gives herself over to them completely.
She portrays brave here without any coverup, with lines like ‘a body once complete now waving goodbye,’ ‘an invisible carcass,’ and ‘I want to tear down all the trees, rip up all the grass.’ This is a naked account of daily life; simple, ordinary, but only if you consider ordinary to be the feeling that getting up out of bed is as difficult as climbing Everest and going for a coffee and a smooch around the local shopping mall is something you need a super hero power to do but then you are the only one who thinks the coolest super hero power would be the ability to simply walk.
‘What do you want my brutal friend?’ Julie asks at the end of the poem Relapse, when her ground has once again been shaken and taken from under her but perhaps that is how you deal with disease, maybe this is how you come to terms with the challenge to life and limb; befriend it honestly, acknowledging your body’s position within the quicksand that you can never climb out of.
The final two poems could have been placed there to appease the reader, to offer hope when closing the book so we, at least, can walk away, move on, but the truth is that these two poems are more admissions to the writer herself of her own ability to keep moving forward. They are bold poems telling us that if she can’t do one thing then she’ll find a way to do the other while watching those finish lines move ever further into the horizon. These poems shine like medals at the end of a race, with the acknowledgement that tomorrow another race will start all over again. But each time someone reads this collection it means that one more person will be there to cheer her on.
The beauty that rises from these lines comes from the honesty that is shared and that honesty takes flight because of the beauty they speak of. This is not a collection of shiny happy days but it shines nonetheless because of the energy Julie’s spirit jumps into every day. She is not called Jumping Jules just because of her athletic past but also because of how she is making brave leaps into the future, regardless of whether that requires a chest of drawers, a crutch, a wheelchair or a scooter.
The collection begins with the body as a factory but ends with the mind as the thriving force behind it all. This is an important collection that not only looks at the frailties of the body under MS but also at how it looks at the resilience of a spirit that will not lay down.
So watch out for more from Julie Stevens and listen for her stick tapping into the day.
Julie’s website is…
You can buy Quicksand from Hydrid Press…