“All the new thinking is about loss. / In this it resembles all the old thinking.”
Love and loss have been very present with me lately. Such thoughts were recently punctuated by the heavy thud of a parcel dropping through our mail slot — my contributor’s copy of The Book of Love and Loss.
The anthology weighs in at nearly 400 poems, and reads like the roll-call at a meeting of the Highgate Poets. It also features English laureates Andrew Motion and Carol Ann Duffy, Welsh laureate Gillian Clarke, children’s laureate Michael Rosen, and Frieda Hughes — daughter of Sylvia Plath and Ted Hughes. I was also pleased to see Carrie Etter’s Birthmother Catechism series represented here as well, having recently heard her read these poems at the Swindon Festival of Poetry.
Following on from the dedication, the work seems to be its own labour of love, and tribute of sorts, to the recently-departed UA Fanthorpe. It also aims to give solace to any who grieve, and seek comfort in the music of language. For this reason, it is an honour to have my poem “The Silence Teacher” among its pages.
Belgrave Press, Bath (Hardbound, 384pp, £12.99)
How can one write poetry when language burns the tongue? For German-Jewish poets living in exile during the Holocaust, the banishment must have been double — not only from homeland, but language. For a poet like Paul Celan, words become as intractable as life itself. But through her careful translations, Ruth Ingram brings into English three exiled poets working within the German language through grief, disillusionment and guilt toward a kind of reconciliation. That is, these are survivor-poems that also represent poetry-as-survival.
The opening poem by Hilde Domin, a so-called “assimilated Jew” whose privileged life was upended by flight and exile, speaks chillingly to survivor guilt. “Build Me a House” begins, “The wind comes…” and describes it lifting old papers “like doves” and displacing us “like jellyfish” on shore. It is a gentle but inevitable force, against which she builds a pretty house. Finally, “the wind passes / like a hunter, / whose hunt is not / meant for us.”
I came home tonight to a lovely surprise: my contributor’s copy of A Bird Black as the Sun: California Poets on Crows & Ravens (Green Poet Press, 2011). If being a poet in California was like being in High School, this anthology would be my yearbook. The table of contents reads like a trip down memory lane.
Who knew these dark muses could set the quills of so many fine poet-friends a-quiver? I know what I will be reading on the tube for the rest of this week — poems like Jackson Wheeler‘s “Crow Sings Jazz” and a promising-sounding one by Paul Fericano, ever obsessed with The Three Stooges, entitled “Curly Howard Misreads Edgar Allen Poe.”
My own poem, “Shelf Road, Ojai” (originally titled “Crow”) qualified me first for an honourable mention in the Atlantic Monthly Student Poetry Competition, then as a runner-up in the Indiana Review Poetry Prize — but has never actually been published before. Re-reading it brings me back to the eponymous trail in a Shangri-La now some six thousand miles away. Perhaps all along these messages-in-a-bottle I call poems were only ever meant to return to me on the shores of a different island, to remind me of who I was, and who was with me, everywhere that I have been.
The anthology is now available at local bookstores or on Amazon.com.