“Not All Are Weeping: poems” by Jean Anne Feldeisen; Main Street Rag Publishing Co., Charlotte, North Carolina, 2023; 46 pages, paperback, $13.

The poems in Jean Anne Feldeisen’s first collection, “Not All Are Weeping,” might best be characterized as reflections on uncertainty.

Most of the 24 poems concern complicated family recollections, and a good number of them raise questions that go unanswered, implicitly and often explicitly. A representative example is “Visiting Uncle Murray in the Senior Facility,” in which the speaker recalls details of her uncle’s room which unfold into a series of questions about responsibilities to him. “Why didn’t you rescue him? / Kidnap him? Take him out / through the locked double doors?” she asks. A few lines on: “How could you let this happen?” Then: “Do you think this is an excuse?” and:


Do you really think you should be forgiven?

Look, I didn’t see anyone else helping either.

What can you expect?


One wrong turn after another—

You could end up alone

curled up into yourself

on a naked cot.


But, of course, you’re right,


damned if I can forgive myself, either.


The poem closes with Uncle Murray playing a recorder, the only answer to the questions the wistfulness in the image.

Different kinds of philosophical uncertainty condense from two of three poems with mirrored titles. “At this age (Falling with you)” imagines dying in the woods as “leaves / swirl down,” at the end acknowledging this whole exercise is anticipatory and not necessarily the reality, which for the moment of the poem is “The itch to ease into / dying,” which is in some ways the ultimate uncertainty.

“At this age (while making bread)” proposes the speaker could tackle “the meaning of life / after a lifetime / working / the question” the way bread is made. “For answers,” the speaker says, “I go alone // lose myself in the forest.” The many woods details fizzle out without answers, though, and what’s left is the bread. “And we will need the high heat / before we’re through.” The project is nowhere near complete.

Uncertainties close poems like “Marriage House,” a collection of frantic snapshots from a home of violent emotions which ends on the question “what else is hidden here?” In one of several prose poems, “A small paradigm shift,” the speaker recalls scrapbooking with her mother and ends with the reflection that “Facts remain in flux as systems shift and settle. … They can seem quite solid, for a time.”


The book ends on the very unresolved note that has guided most of the rest. The third “At this age” poem “(I just want to see her face)” explains that a whirl of images during a Christmas snowfall all prompt the speaker “to reach backwards / lest my love / is left behind / one side still unfinished.” I’m not sure if the implication is that poetry provides no solid answers, or that the poet so far has few solid answers to provide.

The tone, diction and subject matter of these poems, grounded as they are in recollection and complicated heartfelt emotions, remind me of a couple of other local poets, George Chappell, of Rockland, and Judith Robbins, of Whitefield. In all these writers, there is a sense that however uncertain words may be, they nonetheless can help.

Jean Anne Feldeisen, of Gardiner, is also the author of the memoir “Dear Milly.” “Not All Are Weeping” is available online through Main Street Rag Publishing Co.

Off Radar takes note of poetry and books with Maine connections the first Friday of each month. Contact Dana Wilde at dwilde.offradar@gmail.com.










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