Selected Book Reviews
Review by Janet K. Brennan
This magnificent anthology, which features some of the best poets I have read in many years, is a work to be studied for its importance and contribution to world literature
It is divided into five parts. Each part deals with not only the sadness but also the blinding beauty of life and its many challenges. Part One; "Most this amazing day" (Childhood & Apostrophes to Sun) Part Two; "Washing Down Noodles" (Coming to the Feast) Part three; " World as Stained Glass" (Scars, Experiences) Part Four; "Deep In My Comforter" (Returning to the world after trauma) And Part Five; "Presence we Pass Back and Forth."
Unique to this anthology is that it defines the word elegy. We should use the light which elegy sheds to illuminate the various ways in which the soul is capable of rising into ecstasy above grief.
Indeed, as a child we experience and process life far differently than as an adult. And yet, we at any age can tap into those things we best remember as a child and incorporate into our daily lives. In Liam Rector´s, "The Night the Lightning Bugs Lit Last in the Field Then Went Their Way," One senses the metaphoric ideal that completes the message in this poem. I am an adult, I was a child, I am an adult, and still I wonder..
"We went out into the field to get away from the others, to make Love, and there they were-hundreds of them-lighting Last night -"
In this poem, Rector begins with the desire to make love and then quickly finds himself enveloped in his own childlike fantasy of watching firebugs and questioning what comes after the light of life goes out in the night. In his own dreamlike style of writing, the poem is ended the way that it began, made perfect in the viewing of something that he remembered as a child and now wonders about as an adult.
I was especially fond of Barbara Crooker´s "Eggplants." In a sensual dance and come hither poem, Ms Crooker aptly describes the birth of an eggplant in a symbolic gesture that eventually overcomes the Eggplant and becomes humanistic. I felt as if I was swaying in symbolic, almost ritualistic rite of passage tantamount to watching a young girl grow into a woman
"Cradle us in the palm of your hand,
In Part three, "The world was "Stained Glass" (Stains and Scars) "Icarus" by Charles Ade´s Fishman, sweeps us away in a young man´s desire to feel and see the world and its spectacular light. In his reckless abandon, he is drawn to the excitement of the night only to realize that he must return to a mundane existence akin to sleep. This is, to him, a fate worse than death after experiencing the wonders of the night.
"He flew toward home, but time burned slow;
One takes away the tantalizing knowledge that this young man will fly many times in his life following the seduction of light.
Part Four takes us into "Deep in my Comforter" (From the Birth of Light to the Death of darkness). Once again the theme of light plays into this book in perfect harmony.. Death is viewed not as an end but as a source of light once understood in its proper context and stand that it takes in each individual life.
Joyce Peseroff in her "Natural Light" aptly demonstrates in this gorgeous poem how the person who has departed from our lives can be seen and felt in everything around us.
"That summer I saw you as a bird,
And in part Five, "A Presence we Pass Back and Forth" is perhaps my favorite poem in this wonderful book. It is written by poet Steffi Weisburd and entitled "Little God Origami." In this exquisite poem of elegy and celebration, Ms Weisburd has captured the essence of life and death and the unbreakable tie between the two. She shows how all of life´s experiences help to form the essence of what is in the present and future.
"In the soul´s Space, one word on a thousand pieces
She has expressed what I like to think of as pieces of construction paper cut into a million pieces. They fall and scatter, yet when placed together with the glue of life, we have a complete soul.
Steffi Weisburd ends her poem with these words:
-Alas, the window
to your soul needs a good scrubbing, so
Brilliant writing, indeed!
Lynn Strongin (with Glenna Luschei) has culled a most intriguing and thought- provoking book of Poems of Ecstasy. The writing of both introduction and poems which constitute the body of the book is varied, fluid and intelligent. It often bends the rules of traditional poems of praise in way that kept me going back into many of the poems so that I could savor their exquisite images. I was reminded of Poet, Rainer Maria Rilke in the objectivity of many of the poems in this anthology as they fit the apt quotation of the brilliant Wilke in "The silence of their concentrated reality." This is a modern and important compilation of some of the most excellent poets in the literary field today.
I shall place this wonderous anthology in my own personal library for safekeeping knowing that it is there whenever my own soul needs an infusion of light. -- Janet K. Brennan