November Butterfly
by Tania Pryputniewicz

Saddle Road Press, 2014. ISBN 978-0-991-39521-7.
Reviewed by Susan Schoch
Posted on 06/04/2015


Tania Pryputniewicz has put together a powerful group of poems in her November Butterfly collection. For me, the title resonates with all the iconic symbolism of the tenacious and fragile beauty of a butterfly and its transformative experience. It also calls up Robert Frost's "My November Guest."

Frost begins his appreciation for the beauty to be found in darkness in this way:

My Sorrow, when she's here with me,
Thinks these dark days of autumn rain
Are beautiful as days can be...

If there is truth to Pryputniewicz's voice, and I believe there is, it is in her search for the beauty to be found in dark places. Certainly her title poem reflects that, as she takes "...a butterfly with a frayed / wing pinned living / to the windshield" and makes the gesture of liberating that wounded yet vibrant creature. It is a liberation of all our wounded selves and our sorrows.

The poems in that group, the third of three sections in the book, are hopeful in their appreciation for the small joys that she is able to find every day in the natural world. "It's easy," she says, "to love the sun / and the roses it fires." Pryputniewicz also celebrates survival, and the people in her life, though she recognizes the difficulties of marriage, motherhood, labor, and the grief of existence. It seems that by the end, via many avenues, she comes to terms with the violence in her life, and in the lives of many women.

Working backward here: In the beginning, Pryputniewicz puts some distance between herself and the poems with an intellectual exercise, connecting them to a series of fascinating famous women. Nefertiti, Thumbelina, Lady Diana and Marilyn are among them. The author places herself inside the well-known myth, and in so doing, naturally reveals the array of themes that concern her. This is vivid in "Ophelia," in which she is the drowning maiden, feeling "The tug and rip of ditch weeds, stalk juice / greening finger-beds, wrists, dank clumps of dirt / clotting her toes." Wounded-young-woman is a subject she understands.

And Pryputniewicz knows the heart of a woman who follows her own path. "Amelia, or The Poem of Endings" explores the mystery of our undeniable impulses.

One horizon. Two
stars. No one
listening. Except
you for you, crossing
for the crossing.

The central section of November Butterfly still holds a veil between the author and the reader, using the mythology of Guinevere and the Arthurian legends. Again, Pryputniewicz connects us to significant issues. In "The Corridor," the young woman is newly aware of and offended by men's privilege, "but her mother says dwell not on it, / power has many homes..." and proceeds to lead her daughter down the corridor to an understanding of a woman's physical allure. In "Totem," the poet shows us more about what that power means, feeling the "weight of Arthur's decisions, pressed freely / on me in the dark." When he rises, "light as milkweed," Guinivere dreams of the women who are Arthur's soldiers' wives and lovers. They are begging for her favor, offering her buttercups and cream.

There are a few breaks in the book's flow, and the exercises in playing with identity don't always work, but these are small criticisms. By the final section of her book, Preputniewicz' lyrical voice has grown direct and immediate. I followed her story with greater understanding, and found myself reminded of the support and love in my own circles of sisters, when Preputniewicz acknowledged that powerful female connection.

Take a sister with you. One
of you will see more clearly than the other.
In every family, at least one breaks

Throughout this book there are effective and appealing poems that take on big issues, like rape, divorce, being a mother and a mother's daughter, healing, beauty, passion, attention, and more. Perhaps too many more, but Preputniewicz is describing an arc through a woman's life. It is a mature poet's look at her wounds, healing and growth, her survival and resilience, her loves and her joy in them.

November Butterfly rewarded time spent reading poems aloud. Good poems always grow deeper with repetition, and that's true of this collection. The strength and depth of Tania Pryputniewicz' poetry is moving, and her creativity is impressive. I hope you will explore her poems. I trust that if you do, you will want to read them again.

Managing Poetry Editor at The Fertile Source, and co-founder of Mother, Writer, Mentor, a website offering practical help for writing mothers, Tania Pryputniewicz is a grad of the Iowa Writers' Workshop. She blogs, teaches workshops, and also makes award-winning micro movies that feature poetry, photography and music. Her writing has appeared in the Spoon River Poetry Review, Stone Canoe, Blood Orange Review, and more. She lives in San Diego with her husband, three children, and various pets. Learn more about Tania at her website.

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