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Los Angeles Times
BORROWED DRESS, By Cathy Colman, University of Wisconsin Press:

100 pp., $18.95

In Mark Doty’s citation for the Felix Pollack Prize won by Cathy Colman’s Borrowed Dress, the poet is described as an “engaged mind worrying out a way of seeing the world.” Worry is at the heart of these poems, and it is a kind of ecstatic rumination. The poems pore over experience, pecking at the minutes like a quick vigilant bird. (“See how that square of sunlight foreshadows/a bigger radiance in the day.” “Whack the pinata of childhood/until something ugly flies out.”)

Out of the river of worry, the lyric rhythms of these poems accumulate insight--then nervously turn from insight, searching for belief. This book is a little like caffeine and its effects: smart and jittery with a distinct blended taste of hedonism and guilt. No sweeteners: This is bracing home brew, like the title’s borrowed dress, a dip into the unexpected, the familiar world made fresh and strange and sensuous.

Review by: Carol Muske-Dukes

Foreword Reviews
BORROWED DRESS, By Cathy Colman, University of Wisconsin Press:

Perhaps a borrowed dress could free a person “to become what I loved, fly // into the stunned landscape where clouds unfold their longings to be lakes and lakes hold clouds in their mouths / as briefly as smoke.”


This first collection of poems by the winner of the Felix Pollak Prize in Poetry tries on abstract aspects such as nothingness, passion, and death while candidly gazing into life’s mirror with a twist of clever humor. Colman’s poems have previously appeared in numerous publications, such as the Colorado Review, Spoon River Poetry Review, and Quarterly West. This is her third poetry prize award.


It seems as if this poet is talking to the reader personally, but with an accent. The accent is her subtle yet charming veil of self that filters common images in such a way as to create a poignant view of ordinary moments. Each poem evokes meaningful nuances that help the reader shed old skins to see the world anew or “to live with no past tense.” Her metaphors and rhythmic lyrics are crisp and illuminating. For example, in “Impermanence in Orange” Colman paints the air as an “oriental garden lacquered with moonlight and shadow like midnight on a cruise ship.”

This collection is refreshingly free from esoteric meanderings, yet stirs up deep universal truths. Her style is Zen-like in its simple clarity and “ah-ha” moments. Her creative pattern of images—“Mistress” is described as one “who balances pieces of camouflage on her lips and calls it cake”—flow throughout all these poems, bringing a cohesiveness to her work that portrays a strong voice with much richness to offer.


Colman is an obvious talent and a delight to read. Her poetry will be popular, as it touches on subjects that all people ponder and gives wise imagery to the unnamed loads they carry. This is truly a poet to look for on the shelves and share as a perfect example of how refined poetry communicates and expands the soul.

Review by Aime Merizon

CAFFEINE DESTINY--an online magazine

Poetry in Brief

by Susan Denning


In her first collection, Borrowed Dress, winner of the Felix Pollak Prize in Poetry, Cathy Colman proves herself an accomplished poet with a charming wit. Her voice has an ease and grace that lures you in; you begin reading what you think is a simple love poem and before you know it, you are asked to ponder the nature of the universe.


Although many of these poems are about love and family, Colman invites the reader to look beyond the surface of events to larger meanings, and she does it in a way that is often playful, and never heavy handed or ponderous. She is fascinated by the lure of the future and the meaning of the past, and negotiates an engaging presence somewhere in between.


Colman’s book offers a fresh voice in the landscape of contemporary poetry. It’s easy to love a poet who writes, “I wanted to become what I loved, fly/into the stunned landscape where clouds unfold/their longings to be lakes and lakes hold clouds in their mouths/as briefly as smoke.”


pop MATTERS / books

Borrowed Dress, Author: Cathy Colman

The University of Wisconsin Press

October 2001, 52 pages, $18.95 (US)

by Michelle Reale

PopMatters Books Critic


Implied Treason


Borrowed Dress by Cathy Colman, winner of the Felix Pollak Prize in poetry is, on the surface, poetry, distinguished by the requisite broken lines and uneven form, but the images splayed on the page hold so much feeling and stark imagery that the poems themselves read like flash fiction, suspended moments and strident glimpses into the past as well as intrepid contemplation of the future.


Colman’s poetry is honest with an edge that is anything but dull, abiding in the small epigraph, seemingly well chosen, stating: “Speaking always implies treason,” sage words by existentialist Jean Paul Sartre. Setting the stage for these poems, Colman’s “voice” commits not so much treason, although it seems always on the verge of being possible, as it does the tremulous task of the active mind probing the distant and not so distant past while the heart attempts pain-saving detachment. Though what Colman delivers is anything but detached. In fact, the poems emanate warmth, which is, indeed, a good thing as well as not achieving the objectivity of distance.


What So Cal Poets are Reading

Borrowed Dress

by Cathy Colman

The University of Wisconsin Press

Reviewed by Elena Karina Byrne


When were you last “smacked by the boomerang / of desire” or hurtled “into winter’s bright coma, into the hocus pocus of the normal”? Threading the philosophical eye of the needle, Colman acknowledges that the century has its “head thrown back,” but she is one of those brave, rare poets whose “freshly minted coins of reason,” whose intuitive perceptual accuracy, whose sharp wit and unpredictable language saves us from the superficial and reminds us why poetry still reflects what Octavio Paz called, “pure vitality, a heartbeat of time.”


One of our very best poets writing today, Colman responds to society’s technological pull away from nature, that artifice “piled upon artifice until what’s natural terrifies, / and silverware has the mournful authority of rain”; she knows that the universe is indeed black, “like the back of a mirror,” but her buoyant imagery is only part of the genius which startles us past recognition.

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