The New American: Selected Poems
Mary Barnet
Publisher: Cyberwit
Binding: Paperback
ISBN: 978-8-1825306-6-9
List Price: $10.95


Review by Janet K. Brennan

Open the pages of this book and you will enter into a world you thought you knew; however you will quickly find yourself transported into something quite different..

This book of intelligent and stunning poetry with illustrations by her artist husband, Richard Schiff, is indeed, a compilation of what it means to be The New American". It is the sums total of what was and still are the values that our country was founded upon. Mary takes us into the hearts of those hardworking entrepreneurs who founded the small businesses in our country in her "At Nine we Open the Door," and "Losing Hands," only to go on to question the disappearance of these wonderful icons in her "Fourth of July", where she writes

      "My elderly mother
      Reminisces about the Civil War cannon
      "What happened to it?" she asks, quite innocently"

In her opening poem "I am Both Rich and Poor" Ms Barnet aptly describes the idiosyncrasies of life
      "I am both Rich and Poor,
      Both happy and sad
      I am one, I am you,
      I am the changes of my life."

It is her gorgeous and vivid descriptions of a day on the lake in her poem "Little Man" where she blends reality and metaphor in a willow-dance that marks this gem of a poem as my favorite in the book. In this poem, she shows how fear can sometimes be our greatest adversary and triumph at the same time and how we, as humans are titillated by the knowledge that one begets the other.

      "In eager anticipation of a journey over his lake
      Richard braced his hand
      And he climbed his Mt. Everest
      Into our canoe."

Then goes on to show how overcoming that fear brought about a union bound by both nature and soul
      "We gawked as one
      At turtles large and yellow-spotted
      Egrets by the shore
      And a forest of barely conceived pines
      Beginning to rise from their lake
      Into the fresh, stirring
      Soup, primordial as we and our sky"

Mary Barnet does something and she does it well. She weaves her own images of her beautiful homeland into her poetry as only a lover of life can do. Barnet successfully manages to realize that there are always questions and it is not necessary to have answers

In "The Sermon" she writes
      "She found, as of by instinct
      The World she had dreamed of so long ago
      She felt not alone but rather full of peace
      The peace that one finds in a good word
      And in a smile
      The sermon she had come to hear was
      Life itself."

Clearly it is important to this magnificent poet that it is 4essential to spend time in the question of life and love n her breathtaking "Quiet Time" she reflects
      "I cannot write a word
      Or choose a rhyme.
      But I listen
      To my own quiet time.
      I believe
      In silence there is a song."

As I finished this book of 98 pages, I realized that her opening poem was actually an answer to her final poem in the book.

Question or Answer

      What question is it?
      Or which answer
      Reveals itself in the wind?
      Whistling past this house
      Howling from out our windows
      Changing to quietly falling snow?".

This book is a jewel to savor and tuck under your pillow for future reading. It is intelligent, imaginative and one of those rare pieces of art that will live long into the future. -- Janet K. Brennan