Sunday, October 26, 2014

BOOK REVIEWS. Sort Of. (Poetry Edition)


A note about BOOK REVIEWS. Sort Of.:

These are not, in any way, meant to be comprehensive reviews. They are intended to acknowledge that I have read the book, and give my honest core impressions.

If a real review is what you wish, there are many wonderful book blogs available, and I have provided some tools to find them under the tab marked "Useful Stuff."

Why I Wake Early (ebook) - Mary Oliver

I borrowed this book from the library, but I will be purchasing it as a permanent addition to my own library.

The title poem struck me and still echoes in my mind. As a former night owl, I view the fact that I am now usually awake long before my alarm goes off in the morning as something of a mystery. When did this change happen? And why?

I have no regret, though, as the wonders of early mornings in the garden are soul nurturing.

Why I Wake Early

Hello, sun in my face.
Hello, you who make the morning
and spread it over the fields
and into the faces of the tulips
and the nodding morning glories,
and into the windows of, even, the
miserable and crotchety–

best preacher that ever was,
dear star, that just happens
to be where you are in the universe
to keep us from ever-darkness,
to ease us with warm touching,
to hold us in the great hands of light–
good morning, good morning, good morning.

Watch, now, how I start the day
in happiness, in kindness.

I was captivated by the love of nature in this collection. It both soothed my heart and validated my own feelings. Sometimes the desire to cut ties and run with the deer is strong. (Well, we don't have deer where I am. Maybe I could run with the squirrels. No?)

The Poet Goes to Indiana

I'll tell you a half-dozen things
that happened to me
in Indiana
when I went that far west to teach.
You tell me if it was worth it.

I lived in the country
with my dog—
part of the bargain of coming.
And there was a pond
with fish from, I think, China.
I felt them sometimes against my feet.
Also, they crept out of the pond, along its edges,
to eat the grass.
I'm not lying.
And I saw coyotes,
two of them, at dawn, running over the seemingly
unenclosed fields.
And once a deer, but a buck, thick-necked, leaped
into the road just-oh, I mean just, in front of my car—
and we both made it home safe.
And once the blacksmith came to care for the four horses,
or the three horses that belonged to the owner of the house,
and I bargained with him, if I could catch the fourth,
he, too, would have hooves trimmed
for the Indiana winter,
and apples did it,
and a rope over the neck did it,
so I won something wonderful;
and there was, one morning,
an owl
flying, oh pale angel, into
the hay loft of a barn,
I see it still;
and there was once, oh wonderful,
a new horse in the pasture,
a tall, slim being-a neighbor was keeping her there—
and she put her face against my face,
put her muzzle, her nostrils, soft as violets,
against my mouth and my nose, and breathed me,
to see who I was,
a long quiet minute-minutes—
then she stamped feet and whisked tail
and danced deliciously into the grass away, and came back.
She was saying, so plainly, that I was good, or good enough.
Such a fine time I had teaching in Indiana.

Another poem grabbed my heart and doesn't seem inclined to let it go. (Sometimes it's easier to ache for broken land and lost flowers, than face the pain of lives crushed in the name of greed or political expediency.)

What Was Once the Largest Shopping Center in Northern Ohio
Was Built Where There Had Been a Pond 
I Used to Visit Every Summer Afternoon

Loving the earth, seeing what had been done to it,
I grow sharp, I grow cold.
Where will the trilliums go, and the coltsfoot?
Where will the pond lilies go to continue living
their simple, penniless lives, lifting
their faces of gold?
Impossible to believe we  need so much
as the world wants us to buy.
I have more clothes, lamps, dishes, paper clips
than I could possibly use before I die.
Oh, I would like to live in an empty house,
with vines for walls, and a carpet of grass.
No planks, no plastic, no fiberglass.

And I suppose sometime I will.
Old and cold I will lie apart
from all this buying and selling, with only
the beautiful earth in  my heart.

And I'm sure most everyone can relate to this last one.

The Old Poets of China

Wherever I am, the world comes after me.
It offers me its busyness. It does not believe
that I do not want it. Now I understand
why the old poets of China went so far and high
into the mountains, then crept into the pale mist.


And it's Poetry journal time! I finally had time to sit down and enjoy the two journals that came in the mail last month.

srpr (Spoon River Poetry Review)
Summer 2014 Vol. 39.1

This journal publishes a nice variety of poetry, essays, and interviews. There is sure to be something that appeals to just about everyone. There is an on line version, accessible by clicking the title above. In the meantime, here is a taste:

The Old House
- Patsy Kisner

The old house
Lies in a heap
They left everything
Of his inside
For trespassers
To ramble by
And see
Even his coat
Hangs on the parlor wall
With a bird nest
In the pocket

Asking Her Father Where Her Mother Went
- Christina Lutz

is she waiting for us in Ohio
is she waiting in these boxes
       cobwebbing around and around
all my things

       did you know there's a spider
who eats her babies        they call it a wolf

i bet it howls as it spins
       shifting its paws in the air

frogpond (Haiku Society of America)
2014 Volume 37 Number 2

This journal is dedicated to Haiku, Senryu and related forms. Since I have a soft spot in my heart for these little gems, I always enjoy reading the latest issue. Here, have a couple:

forgetting myself . . .
cherry blossoms
in the wind

Anna Cates, Wilmington. OH

origami birds
some of my childhood
in the folds

Stephen A. Peters, Bellingham, WA

the basso profundo
of bullfrogs

Ellen Compton, Washington, D.C.

spider's silk
the tensile strength
of dreams

Beverly Acuff Momoi, Mountain View, CA


  1. I especially love "The Old Poets of China."

    1. I sometimes envy their ability to disconnect. (sometimes)