A Woman in Pieces Crossed a Sea by Denise Bergman, winner of the West End Press
2013 Patricia Clark Smith Poetry Prize, West End Press, 2014, 72pp/, $14.95
The subtle, fierce poems in Denise Bergman’s new collection, A Woman in Pieces Crossed a Sea, offer a biography of the Statue of Liberty, beginning with the titanic Statue’s birth in France in the mind of sculptor Batholdi, her dismemberment into 350 “pieces” packed in 214 crates, her journey “in pieces” across the sea to Bedloe’s Island, her unpacking and re-assembling by “workers [who] break their lives into distinctions,” and her resurrection and presence as symbol and sign of all that America has long promised to its citizens and the world.
Bergman’s story of the giant copper and steel “woman…born with broken/shackles on her feet” begins with a demand from the heart: “Hey Lady!/…Give us/what you promised, or give us/an honest truth.” The poet holds the hugeness of the symbolic content the Statue was endowed against past and ongoing injustices of her adopted country. Her request for “an honest truth,” rather than “the honest truth” establishes the quiet irony that seeps through the meticulously crafted book. “An honest truth” measures all too precisely what we can ask for in a land where poverty of truth is a daily condition.