Carol Bindel, Inherited Estate: A Song Cycle, Reviewed by Caryn Coyle

Carol Bindel, Inherited Estate: A Song Cycle, ISBN: 978-1-936243-37-2, Trace Hay Publications, 2012, 108 pages, $18.00.

I admire the way words can be grouped together, forming elegant phrases. They not only sound beautiful, they reveal life’s truths. Carol Bindel creates graceful revelations in her poetry collection, Inherited Estate: A Song Cycle. The poems have a simple quality, reflecting the life she has lived as a member of the Church of the Brethren. Bindel’s poetry is also passionate, even while it uncovers the subtle differences between two worlds.

In “A Foot in Each World” she explains:

I stand with a foot in two worlds,
the span over memory shards.
Winds shake me, I tremble and shiver,
I’ve learned to fear free-fall,
and yet
I seek and reach to embrace the power
that pulls me loose, rips me from familiar place,
through time and space …

The cover of Bindel’s book is simple, too. It features a black and white photograph of the farm on which she grew up. Taken in the 1950’s, the photo shows a summerhouse, smokehouse, outhouses, and a recently completed cement-block chicken house. The branches of the trees are bare, black webs and the foreground is dark; ridges in a field look ready for planting. Her poem, “Inherited Estate,” echoes the scene:

… at the unused homestead barn, a wing
of the roof folds down on broken rafters.

Westering brilliance uplights strong
Young oaks, a trio of cedars;

We stand together on the rim of the hill
bearing witness

I had never heard of a song cycle and was grateful that Bindel explained it in the preface: “A Song Cycle is a series of songs written in one voice … the words of one writer, with music, designed to be performed in a unified sequence.”

The poet divides her poems—her song cycle—into sections entitled “Emergence,” “Innocence,” “Loss,” “Home,” and “Praise.”

In the “Emergence” section, a particular poem that is brief and powerful, spoke to me. The poem is titled “Perfect Secrets”:

Perfect Secrets

you don’t always know
you have enough courage

pain awakes to ride
the night, to search and probe
in places once unknown

ahead the journey

Succinctly embracing the concept of a secret in its brief, compact frame, the poem is illuminating. Each time I read it, I admire it all the more.

The second section, “Innocence,” is delightful, and easy to comprehend. For those not inclined to understand the abstractions that a poem sometimes offers—and I count myself among them—these poems are clear. They unveil luscious, little slices of life. In “These Vintage Portraits,” Bindel reveals a lifetime, encapsulated on two pages:

… No picture shows how, together, you and I dreamed
of life in a nebulous place, a family sufficient, you
an artist, a fine cabinetmaker, me
raising sheep, wool my for spinning. Our dream
discounted realities, amenities. We settled
north of Baltimore. Now our granddaughter

Tip-toes to the lip of adulthood…

The last poem in this section, “Love Story,” describes two skeletons found together after thousands of years. Ms. Bindel writes aptly about their discovery, asking questions of the couple that are timeless:

… if they had lived longer
would he have been angry because the meat spoiled
the crop failed and the fire, they were hungry
and her voice sounded harsh as a crow, cawing?
Would she blame him for the baby’s death?
Would he have shouted and stalked away
to the hunt, to his death
under the gorgeous orange-red-purple sunset
would she have wept alone?

In keeping with the title that the poet chose for the book, Bindel’s poems sing. They focus on the familiar, the ordinary, in an eloquent way.

In the section entitled “Home” is the poem, “Papa’s Hands”:

Papa’s large hands, long fingers
graceful, sure in his routines,
brown from sun and age,
white marked
where cuts and tears once caused him pain
of which he no longer spoke …

The last section of the collection, “Praise,” includes a modest, short poem that describes the writing process:


I wait for something
deeply thoughtful
maybe profound
for me to say

What comes
is ordinary quiet.

So I tell you:
In my heart I often
sit with you for a time
in ordinary quiet.

Carol Bindel writes from the mysterious depths that endow gifted poets. Reading her words conjures images and emotions that all of us share. She conveys life’s timeless and universal lessons.

Poet Galway Kinnell said, “To me, poetry is somebody standing up, so to speak, and saying, with as little concealment as possible, what it is for him or her to be on earth at this moment.” Carol Bindel’s poems show us her world.

© Caryn Coyle and Carol Bindel

Caryn Coyle’s fiction has been published in four issues of the Loch Raven Review and in the Cobalt Review, Gargoyle, The Journal (Santa Fe), JMWW, The Little Patuxent Review, The Potomac, Three Quarter Review, and in the anthologies City Sages: Baltimore, published by City Lit Press, and On the Edge, published by the Missouri State Poetry Society. Her fiction has won awards from the Maryland Writers Association, the Delmarva Review, the Missouri Writer’s Guild, the St. Louis Writer’s Guild, and the New Millennium.

Carol Bindel lives quietly in rural Maryland from where she writes often and publishes occasionally. Her writing has appeared in numerous publications, including Time of Singing, Women of Spirit, Mature Living, The Pen Woman, Chesapeake, Late Knocking, Manorborn, and The Gunpowder Review. She is a member of the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Harford County, Maryland.

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