Edible East Bay editor Cheryl Angelina Koehler reviews
Too Many Seeds: Poems by Gabrielle Myers
Finishing Line Press, release date December 3, 2021
I first got to know Gabrielle Myers in 2016 when she asked if we might like to review her just-published memoir, Hive-Mind. As a former chef in such notable East Bay establishments as Oliveto and Boulettes Larder, the now-professor of English at San Joaquin Delta College typically twines imagery from our local East Bay food world into her writing. Hive-Mind told a story of particular relevance in that regard.
Known better to herself as a poet, Myers said she relied mostly on prose in the writing of Hive-Mind when she found that the process of verse-making was not facilitating her telling of the shattered time in 2006 when she served as an intern at Tip Top Farm in Vacaville. It was the season when farmer Laura Jane Trent died by suicide. The farm’s booth had been a favorite stop at the Thursday Berkeley Farmers’ Market for many in her circle. Trent’s gorgeous produce had even made its way into the Chez Panisse kitchen.
In Too Many Seeds, Myers’ begins her new collection of 45 poems with a section of pieces that resisted emerging while she was writing Hive-Mind. The volume’s subject matter also arcs out to gritty East Bay urban scenes, vigils on waterways (near and far), and quiet times at a chef friend’s dinner table. Seeds, figs, pollen, and ticking insects form a world at times haiku-like in its delicacy. A scattered set of five poems of particular power, called “The Dried Fruit Factory,” expose the blind eye to poisoning by fumigants of undocumented workers and work as a foray into eco- and human rights advocacy. “These poems are my attempt to call attention to the situation, which I think is ongoing and needs a call to action,” the author says in a recent communication.
It’s often said that art reveals truths left unspoken in the quotidian reports. During this time of change and challenge, I find myself drawn to the deeper listening that’s asked for by poetry.