Tuesday, November 4, 2014
Musicality, mystery, and poetry
When I opened the review copy Cider Press kindly sent of Joseph Fasano’s new book of poetry, Inheritance, I immediately felt the musicality of Charles Wright and Jorie Graham, both of whom have won Pulitzer prizes for their poetry, which, although exquisite, can be difficult to understand.
Knowing this, I purposely switched my poetry-reading process from brisk engagement to a quieter drift mode, letting the poems carry me along a medley of sights, sounds, and colors to float through stories or experiences in the poet’s stream of consciousness and beyond.
Often, mystery occurs through referents that might not be clear at first even in something as seemingly obvious as the wind that riffles these pages, beginning with the opening lines of the first poem, “The Figure.”
You sit at a window and listen to your father
crossing the dark grasses of the fields
toward you, a moon soaking through his shoes as he shuffles the wind
aside, the night in his hands like an empty bridle.
Beautiful imagery in those moon-soaked shoes! But what is the significance of that bridle (guidance, leading?) And what is the meaning of this wind? Air? Breath? Emptiness? A spirit? Ruah, The Holy Spirit? If the latter, a legacy of inheriting the wind takes on priceless value as the potential Inheritance.
That said, these interesting questions are not for me to answer but you to ask as you read. Or not! Despite what we learned in school, we do not have to know what a poem means. Sometimes the glory of poetry abides in our sensing, experiencing, feeling, and being swept (by the wind?) off our feet!
In “The Dead,” we see “The wind lies open beside them/ like the pages of a gospel they can’t follow,” and in the presence of these deceased persons, who evoke living memories, we discover “the waking/ is wilder, the wind/ is the melody of disaster/ playing itself to completion.”
Then, in the title poem “Inheritance,”
The wind tonight is a mere
savant in the throes
of his deep prayer again and you are here, still,
when I drift in,
a small bowl
in your hands like the nest
of some unfledged darkness….
Even when the wind doesn’t stir the lines of a poem, you can hear the “ooooh” of it, running through such lines as these from “Nachtmusik.”
where she goes, how when she walks she holds
the long branches of her garden up to her lost sons’
Besides waves of assonance and incantatory repetition, the poem includes consonance with all three of those aspects of musicality (along with a little mystery) heard in these lines from “Wolves.”
…I have had to ruin the most beautiful
things first. I have had to wrap a small piece of my own torn
arm in the fustian sleeves of a greatcoat and leave it first
on the fences I was fond of, first in near fields then far
ones, in honor of the twin sons of chaos, who reigned, who
reign, who will reign there.
As such lines wrap exquisitely around life, death, and poems of parents, I remember that Joseph Fasano is young but already highly acclaimed. And, so, I wonder if I should change my 5-star review on Amazon to four to keep one star burning as a goal, to keep from discouraging the poet from growing toward his mature poetic self with dazzling surprises that include and bewilder us all.
© 2014, Mary Harwell Sayler, reviewer, is poet-author of Outside Eden, published in print in 2014 by Kelsay Books, and Living in the Nature Poem, published in 2012 in print by Hiraeth Press and in 2014 as an e-book. Also this summer, Kelsay Books published Mary's first book of poems for children, Beach Songs & Wood Chimes/