Neely-Dorsey, Patricia. Reflections of a Mississippi Magnolia. Jonesboro, AR: GrantHouse Publishers, 2008. Price $15.00.
This review is a little different because it is the first book of poetry I have reviewed and it is the first book I’ve reviewed because the author asked if I would. “Reflections of a Mississippi Magnolia,” written by Patricia Neely-Dorsey is full of Southern poems written by a Southerner. I was both nervous and excited to have an author ask me to review their book. Nervous because…well what if I didn’t like her book? I was excited because someone trusted me enough to review her book. My nerves calmed down when I opened the book and started reading the wonderful poems. By the way, thanks Patricia for trusting me with your baby.
These poems are written by a Mississippian about her experiences and although I’m not from Mississippi I truly enjoyed “Reflections of a Mississippi Magnolia.” The poems brought back childhood memories of my own Southern upbringing. I smiled and giggled though most of this book; several of the poems touched my soul. Patricia Neely-Dorsey’s book is divided into seven sections: Southern Life, Country Living, Childhood Memories, Family History, Getting Personal, Intimacies and Summing Things Up.
The Southern Life section has poetry that is an overview of mainstream Southern life. I smiled when I read her poem “Southern Man” because I recognize him and have been looking for my very own Southern man as described in her poetry for myself. Although I grew up in the country, I believe that Ms. Neely-Dorsey’s family was even more country than mine. Her “Hog Killing Time” brought back memories of the older generation talking about their experiences, but I never had to witness this for myself (for which I am most grateful). The poem “Partyline”in the Childhood Memories section really had me giggling because I remember when we had a telephone with a partyline and it was hard to get all the nosy busybodies off the line when you wanted a private conversation.
The only poem I was disappointed in was “Right to Vote” in the Family History section. I was disappointed because it stopped too soon; I wanted to read more about the personal experiences that Patricia Neely-Dorsey’s mama and daddy had while trying to vote. This is a part of the Southern experience that is uniquely African-American is fascinating to me and I wanted to learn more. I didn’t know that African-Americans wanting to vote had to answer such asinine questions as “How many bubbles in a bar of soap?” or “How many raindrops to fill a barrel?” My family, although they were poor, were not tested in this manner. I know from history books that African-Americans struggled but I didn’t know the particularly persnickety way folks were denying them their rights. This poem touched my heart.
We all could learn from the poem “Loving Me” in the Getting Personal section. Ms. Neely-Dorsey writes a beautiful poem that tells of her acceptance of herself just as she is. Her first line sums it up “I’ve always loved how I’m made.” I like that a lot. My favorite poem in the Intimacies section is “The (Un) Domestic Diva.” I laughed out loud at that one. All the poems in the Summing Things Up section are just plain sweet. Let me confess now, that I mentally substituted “Tennessee” for each time “Mississippi” appeared in these poems.
Bottom line: I enjoyed “Reflections of a Mississippi Magnolia.” If you want to get a glimpse of our Southern culture or if you are Southern you will enjoy the poetry and the memories they bring to the surface.
To read some of Ms. Neely-Dorsey’s poetry, learn more about her and buy her book, please visit her website at http://www.patricianeelydorsey.webs.com/