Monday, September 15, 2008

Through a Gate of Trees

My review of Susan Jackson's Through a Gate of Trees (CavanKerry Press, 2007) appears in the current issue of The Southeast Review. This is a lovely collection which I am happy to recommend to you. To entice you, here are the first two paragraphs of the review:

"In her debut collection, Through a Gate of Trees, Susan Jackson sets off on a journey of discovery. As she passes through her metaphorical gate, she leads the reader into a world that is large and complicated and fraught with danger, a world that is both familiar and strange.

"Jackson prefaces her collection with the exquisite and perfectly positioned “Early Morning in the Garden.” This poem does what a prefatory poem must do to earn its singular spot in the sun: it introduces motifs and entices us to read on. We are immediately reminded of Eden’s Tree of Knowledge, the snake, the abundance of Paradise and its loss. We find the same fusion of happiness and sorrow, a contradiction that prepares us for the series of contradictions that will erupt throughout the collection. In Jackson’s garden 'Even a blade of grass is sharp / from a certain angle.' And 'Weeding exposes a slug tucked / like the sad underbelly of happiness . . . '”

To entice you further, here are two of my favorite poems from the collection. First the prefatory poem:

Early Morning in the Garden

It matters how you come to a thing.
Even a blade of grass is sharp
from a certain angle.
The quick spade driven into ground
can slice earthworms in half.
Only some grow back
what they have lost.
Weeding exposes a slug tucked
like the sad underbelly of happiness
to the cool place where lily stem meets soil
Leave it be this time.
Pull from another place.
Who disturbs the wild thing
may also find the bee,
off on its own errand, dangerous.
It matters how you come to a thing
or let it come to you.

And from the middle of the collection, this joyful poem of birth:


Blue hospital gown twists
and winds around me
as I turn from side to side,
moving toward the blue hour
of your birth; inside my belly you
swim past women with blue basins
on their hips going to the river to bathe,
past Mary Magdalene clasping her blue shawl
as she rushes into the cool blue Jerusalem morning,
you pass hills blue as the Serengeti at sunset,
your forefathers' blue sails lifting
in the wind as they head out to sea;
as you swim past blue starfish
in the reef shoals my temples pulse,
blue drums beat, I pant as I push you through the
blue currents of your ocean world into
light dazzling your new eyes child of the blue hour
air beating into your lungs till you cry out
the hymn of your arrival into the new homeland
you make for me in your coming.

If you're going to the Geraldine R. Dodge Poetry Festival, September 25-September 28, you can hear Susan Jackson read. She will be one of the featured poets reading with BJ Ward and Luke Warm Water on Saturday, 11:00 AM-12:00PM.

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  1. Well, I'm sold. I'll be mapping out my festival session strategy over the weekend, and I'll be sure to fit this one in.

    See you around Waterloo?

  2. Great. Yes, I'll be there all four days. Hope to cross paths with you.

  3. I really enjoyed the poem, "Blue." Vivid imagery.


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