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Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Remembering Softly: a life in poems

In this age of slung mud and cynicism, what a joy to receive the refreshing book, Remembering Softly: a life in poems by Catherine Lawton, published by Cladach Publishing, who kindly sent me a copy for review.

The back of the softly colorful cover let me know that Catherine and I began writing poetry about the same age, which makes me suspect she also loves the play of sounds and words. More important, her poetry comes from the spirit with a heart for life and the Divine.

As her opening quote from Romans 12:1 suggests, she writes “With eyes wide open to the mercies of God.” Then, in the Introduction, the poet gives a glimpse of her writing process, which I recognize and highly recommend. She says:

“Admittedly, I am not a disciplined poet. I can compose meter and rhyme on demand; but mostly I wait for that elusive and mysterious inspiration. The important thing is to capture on paper the phrases, images, and insights as they come; to sit with them, savor them, polish them like agates; and if they pass the test of holding together and ringing true, to share them.”

…which reminds me to say that a major aspect of writing poetry is being hospitable! i.e., As a line, image, or musical phrase comes, the immediate task is to give that opening full attention. Then the rest of the poem will often follow.

That sense of hospitality and keen awareness of the present moment develops in reverse order, chronologically, as the book begins with current times and goes back to earlier poems. Even then, an appreciation of life apparently began in childhood as the last poem in the book nicely demonstrates.

In “It’s a Beautiful Day,” the child-poet wrote:

"The robins sing.
And the roosters crow.
The rising sun warms
The valley below.

With the same time of day and observant eye but greater complexity, the poet begins the book with “In the Cleft of a Cold, White Rock,” written earlier this year:

“As in the close space
between dawn and dusk
of a January day when
hoar-frosted trees
have their feet in snow
and their branches
raised against a white,
weighty sky, a crevice
of blue breaks and
frosted arms sparkle;
I find myself pressed between granite slabs….”

The press between the visual and the spiritual continues in “Snow on Good Friday” where flakes fall “like manna fallen from Heaven” while, in “God’s Anvil”…

“the church
to purity

Oh, what a blessing that would be!

The hopes and prayers of a life given to love come through strongly in this book, but fresh scenes also draw us back to the visual. In “Autumn Walk Along the Poudre River,” for example:

“I see kingfisher, yellow-legs, bright magpie;
hear squirrels chatter, red-tails scream,
and splashing fish in sparkling stream.”

Besides noting designs in nature, the poet included the light and lively artwork of her granddaughters Isabelle Lawton and Breanna Slike, bringing yet another lovely touch to this book.

Review by Mary Harwell Sayler, poet-writer reviewer, © 2016

Remembering Softly: a life in poems, paperback


  1. What a sensitive, thoughtful, and lyrical review! Thank you, Mary. You really are a sister in letters and heart!

  2. Whew! I just tell it like I read it, Catherine, but am so glad to hear your response. Thanks.