Guest Editor Laura Salvatore

A Review of Outside from the Inside
Poetry by Anne Whitehouse




Title: Outside from the Inside.
Author: Anne Whitehouse.
Paperback: 122 pages
ISBN-10: 1948017962
ISBN-13: 978-1948017961
Dimensions: 6 x 0.5 x 9 inches
Publisher: Dos Madres Press (September 15, 2020)
Language: English




The title of Anne Whitehouse’s newest collection of poems Outside from the Inside comes from a letter that sculptor Isamu Noguchi wrote to fellow artist Man Ray from the Poston War Relocation Center in 1942, during the time that he was interned there. Noguchi’s personal activism mixed with the calm and composed temperament of his artistic work made for a powerful combination. The energy that Noguchi infuses into his sculptures is the same kind of energy that you’ll find yourself experiencing while reading the poems in this volume.

If you’ve been lucky enough to see any of Noguchi’s sculptures in person, or even luckier to visit the Noguchi Museum in Queens, New York, you will know what I mean when I say that being in the presence of his artwork gives you an overwhelming sense of calm. The smooth sides of the stones, the gentle care he took with the paper works, can all translate into how you move through the world after. It is the same subtle experience that one has while meditating, doing breath work or yoga, and or reading the poetry of Anne Whitehouse. Her capacity to appreciate the small and forgotten is like reading an array of odes to the environment and life that surrounds each of our worlds. Reading this book will lull the reader into a practice of taking more time with their surroundings. Whitehouse sings praises in her words of affirmation and witness, while understanding and celebrating the fact that:

“We have been shown more
Than we can ever comprehend”

Whitehouse’s collection serves as a meditation and act of praise for all the various subjects that color our collective world. She chronicles the experience of being present on this earth through her appreciation and understanding of the surrounding environment– whether that’s through the lens of artist Paul Pines or her studies of the way specific muscles help move us through our life. Through exploring the waves of life– the way we are often lifted up emotionally then quickly lowered back down– there is a growing gratitude for the constant back and forth of joy and grief and the way that inevitably occupies our life. In a world where climate change is increasingly ravaging our planet and we see the powers that be doing next to nothing to stop it, a collection of poems expressing thanks for nature and its elements feels especially radical.

Outside from the Inside follows several different veins throughout the volume, starting with Part I: Tides of the Body, which takes us through life forces such as the heartbeat, breath, muscles such as the anconeus and popliteus (which I didn’t even know my body held until this poem) and dives into a litany of gratitude and explanation for their purpose, meditating on all they do– functioning on a quiet level all during the day while our bodies move through the world. Giving thanks for each of these moving parts is just the beginning of a catalog of thanks that Whitehouse presents us with over the following pages.

Through these meditations on the body, Whitehouse deals with traumas and explores the way that they have influenced the life of the speaker, approaching them from an almost journalistic perspective, as though she is an outward spectator expressing how trauma informs the body, the mind, and how the two operate together. The poem “The Desire for Revenge” moves through how one feels after a trauma is done to their body and how the mind slowly adapts over time until reaching

“Not acceptance,
But resignation, so unhealed wounds
May close over at last and scar.”

After looking inward to the body, Whitehouse begins to look outward to the world and studies the way that the world around us moves in small and large facets. The way the light moves on the water and the leaves, the way petals go through their life cycle, the slow rise of evening– Whitehouse records it all as a praise song and record of living. Through this book we can see the poet’s reverence for all levels of life, whether that is the life of a dog, a plant, loved ones who have passed, a musician’s experiences before going on stage, or the plethora of other lives she embodies through the page.

In the more personal sections, we see Whitehouse reckoning with her ancestors and how those stories intertwine with her own. Often, these relationships are explored through the location that these family members lived in and how place and home or lack thereof can influence the way a person is about to connect with their world. The non-linear timeline of it all shows us just how much our lives can overlap and intertwine with the lives of those relatives who came before us. One example of how she does this can be seen in the poem “Salt-Rising Bread” where we are taken through the messy lands of the south, its rivers and musty banks, to learn the directions of how to make the simple bread so delectable “that dying men and women/ recall it with nostalgia.”

One of the most touching poems in the book is “Koko and Robin” where Whitehouse turns on her journalist side to tell us of the relationship between late actor Robin Williams and the gorilla Koko. The two got along notoriously well and through this poem the focus is skewed toward Koko, how she loved Williams and wept when she learned of his death. In this poem, we can see the humanity that Whitehouse places within all her subjects, how she treats them gently through telling us the honest truth.

I can spend all day expanding on how Whitehouse languishes over the ins-and-outs of being present on this planet, but I think her own words from the poem “Achalay (Rejoice), For Music is Euphoria of the Soul” sum it up best:

“Rejoice, rejoice!
We shall grieve and sigh.
Rejoice, rejoice!
We shall work and sob.
Rejoice, rejoice!”

This vacillation between joy and despair is explored through the entirety of the book, serving as an even more appropriate reminder now while we occupy a world that often feels hopeless with climate change rising and political turmoil continuing. There will always be a return to joy, a return to despair, a return to joy, and the wheel keeps turning.


About the reviewer:
Laura Salvatore is a poet living in Queens, New York. She is currently pursuing an MFA in Creative Writing at The City College of New York. Her work has been featured in Angel City Review, Quail Bell Magazine, Pith Magazine, and Apricity Magazine. 

About Anne Whitehouse:
Anne Whitehouse is also the author of seven poetry collections, most recently Outside from the Inside (Dos Madres Press, 2020), as well as a novel, Fall Love, and short stories, essays, and reviews. Ethelzine has just published Surrealist Muse, her long poem about Leonora Carrington, as a mini-chapbook.