Friday, July 13, 2018
A MAP AND ONE YEAR by KAREN L. GEORGE
EILEEN TABIOS Engages
A Map and One Year by Karen L. George
(Dos Madres Press, Loveland, OH, 2018)
Sometimes, we poet-as-readers are such know-it-alls. We assume our readers know our references. I know of several poets who would publish (and have published) “found poetry,” for example, without feeling the need to explain what is meant by “found poetry.” In this sense, one of the strengths of Karen L. George’s A Map and One Year is her Introduction—here she explains “found poetry” and how she applied its approach to making the poems that make up her latest collection. In it, she notes how “found poetry” (like many constraints) allow her imagination to journey to places her “poems might not normally go.”
I appreciate the Introduction—its inclusion is an approach that widens the potential readership for the book. That is, if a reader—who’s not a poet, who’s not in academia, who’s etcetera etcetera—happened to stumble across a copy of George’s book on, say, a bench where it was inadvertently left behind by its owner, that person could pick up the book and find a way to inhabit the poems through the clearly-written Introduction.
It may be that I make too much of the Introduction’s presence because, ultimately, the poems should be effective without any introduction. Forgive me: I just appreciate the lack of pretense about it.
But, yes, the poems, if they work, should not need any particular introduction. And the poems are indeed effective with their deftness, luminosity, elegance, and wisdom. It may be true that George used words she found in her readings, but she was still the one to recognize which words would find a place in her new poems. Here’s one of the lovely poems:
Inside night’s white cloth
you eat the broth of sorrow
salted with the dead
which was “composed/modified from words in Naomi Shihab Nye’s poem ‘Kindness’.” Here’s another:
Ambushed by Beauty
Sadness that blue blaze
spilling so sudden
when you come across larkspur
the arch of a plump shell glittering
tenderness of a morning fog
the deep mountain valley.
Grieving, you turn away
the breaking sharpened
by the things alive.
which was composed/modified using words in Robert Hass’ poem, “On Squaw Peak.”
The book’s poems basically make manifest the encouragement in the opening poem, “Wellspring,” which was composed/modified using words in Tomas Transtromer’s poem “About History” (as translated by Robert Bly):
Recently on my Facebook feed, Bob Holman posted,
The thing to remember about a poem is that it is not made of emotions. It’s not made of wisdom. It’s not made of your most secret interior life being vomited out on a page. It’s made out of words. So start with words—what word is working for you right now? And put that down.
I understand (indeed, sympathize with) what Bob Holman said though I feel the poem can be strong enough to transcend even vomity roots. But I was reminded of his stress on the importance, the power, of words as I read through George’s collection. George created new poems by her attentiveness to words and, consequently, gives us new poems worth reading. I’ll end with one more example—this one composed/modified from words in Naomi Shihab Nye’s poem “Pollen, and whose last line resonates long after the book is put away:
Foxgloves clumped in weeds
beside the big cedar stump.
Light drums the river.
Eileen Tabios is the editor of Galatea Resurrects (GR). She loves books and has released over 50 collections of poetry, fiction, essays, and experimental biographies from publishers in nine countries and cyberspace. Her 2018 poetry collections include HIRAETH: Tercets From the Last Archipelago, MURDER DEATH RESURRECTION: A Poetry Generator, TANKA: Vol. 1, and ONE TWO THREE: Selected Hay(na)ku Poems which is a bilingual English-Spanish edition with translator Rebeka Lembo. She invented the poetry form “hay(na)ku” which will be the focus of 15-year anniversary celebrations at the San Francisco and Saint Helena Public Libraries in 2018. While she doesn't usually let her books be reviewed by GR since she's its editor, exceptions are made for projects that involve other poets; in this issue, her IF THEY HADN'T WORN WHITE HOODS... collaboration with John Bloomberg-Rissman is reviewed HERE. She also is pleased to direct you elsewhere to reviews of her own books: her MANHATTAN: An Archaeology was reviewed in EMPTY MIRROR; her LOVE IN A TIME OF BELLIGERENCE was reviewed in Sticks & Stones; and her ONE TWO THREE: SELECTED HAY(NA)KU POEMS was reviewed in the San Francisco Review of Books. More information about her works is available at http://eileenrtabios.com.
Posted by EILEEN at 4:09 PM