Faces in a Crowd

Faces in a Crowd remind us how much alike we are, even in our differences. These glimpses into human nature, spiritual matters, and our relationships with one another come alive in free verse, prose poems, and traditional poetry forms.

The print book version is now available in plenty of time for Christmas gifts!

Source: Faces in a Crowd

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Blog – Mary Harwell Sayler

 

New ebook of poetry on Kindle!

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E-book version on Kindle

 

The poems in Faces in a Crowd reminds us how much alike we are, even in our differences. These glimpses into human nature, spiritual matters, and our relationships with one another come alive in free verse, prose poems, and traditional poetry forms.

Source: Blog – Mary Harwell Sayler

Reviewing Heaven

In the book, Heaven, written by award-winning poet Rowan Ricardo Phillips and published by Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, who kindly sent me a copy for review, the poems in this particular “heaven” lean not toward the baptismal but the mythological. So, if you’re expecting a biblical view of heaven, as I was, you might miss the search, as I first did, into heavenly realms that began with light, music, and flights of literary allusions.

While these poems do not land in a particular place or spiritual environment, they explore a variety of routes people have taken to get there. For example, the opening poem, “The Mind After Everything Has Happened” begins with “Perpetual peace. Perpetual light./ From a distance it all seems graffiti” then ends:

“If Hell is a crater to a crater
To a crater to a crater, what then
Is Heaven, aside from its opposite,
Which was glorious, known, and obvious?”

But then there’s the question of whether that last line depicts Heaven or Hell.

The poem “Boys” seems more obvious as the guys cut class to hang out “to play/ Just about all the music we knew,” caught up in the heavenly tunes of their own making. Interestingly, that all-day endeavor ends in suffering:

“When the dark would come, we’d show each other
Our blisters, the painful white whorls peeling,
Our read palms upwards, outstretched and unread.”

After reading the search in those palms, we read “The Starry Night,” where “Night frees its collar from around its neck/ And walks slowly past the two bathing bears/ Wading in the black stellate subheaven.”

From celestial places and beautiful myths to the beauty in nature and love, the poet briefly descends into “News From the Muse Of Not Guilty” with these sensory and highly visual lines:

“He sits in a Hawaiian shirt over a bulletproof vest,
Slumped in a beach chair, its back to the ocean.
Even his red wine spritzer tastes like Skittles now.”

“An Excuse For Mayhem” starts with “The Kingdom of Heaven” as perceived through the Christian faith then ends with this word or, is it a warning?

“…the sublime blue hour
Of the voice, the mute light, mute church, mute choice.”

The final lines of the book, however, find rest in an earthy heaven and this confession:

“…all I want to do is lay my head/
Down, lay my head down on the naked slope
Of your chest and listen there for my heart.”

©2015, Mary Harwell Sayler, writer and reviewer, has 3 books of poems in print, the first of which, Living in the Nature Poem, was published in 2012 by Hiraeth Press with an e-book version in 2014. That same year, Kelsay Books published Mary’s book of nature poems for children and her book of Bible-based poems, Outside Eden.

Heaven: poems, hardback

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Eyes Have I That See: review of selected poems by priest-poet, John Julian

As a long-time lover of poetry by priest-poets, I was delighted to receive a review copy of Eyes Have I That See: selected poems of Fr. John Julian, which Paraclete Press kindly sent me to review.

According to the back cover, Fr. Julian’s work has been compared to other priest-poets such as George Herbert and Gerard Manley Hopkins, but that may be like comparing peaches and pears! Besides the differing forms and styles, the poems of the two G. H.’s flow with succulent phrases and sweet praise, whereas the poetry of Fr. Julian has a contemporary bite.

As soon as I said that, however, I opened the book again and re-read the first poem, which, yes, makes me think of the Episcopal priest George Herbert in a beautiful litany appropriate for liturgy! The poem, “Anima Christi,” begins by calling:

“Soul of Christ, O, consecrate me;
Flesh of Christ, emancipate me;
Blood of Christ, intoxicate me;
Water from Christ’s side, repair me….”

These exquisite lines continue, focusing on Christ before closing with a plea, “That forever I may praise Thee. Amen.”

As the collection continues, the “I” of the poem could be me, you, the poet, or, most likely, the voice of people since the beginning of time, for instance, as “My golden fruit/ Lies tarnished now” in “The Apple Tree,” and “Gethsemane, BC,” calls on Isaac to arise.

In the poem “’Twixt Dinner And The Tree,” we see “The Beloved gathered” between the Last Supper and the cross and find:

“Old wildly verbal Peter had already felt his words
twist back, his promises stumbling to unanticipated oblivion;
poor James hid dark in tears in some far kosher corner….”

Other poems present contemporary reflections of biblical stories threaded with the timelessness that connects us. Most lines unwind as free verse with others occasionally aligning into traditional meter as shown in this first verse of “Incarnatus.”

“Bethlehem broadened and filled our horizons,
The stable demanded our hearts in return;
God spoke the Word in the flesh of a Man-child
And wrote with that Body what mankind must learn.”

In the last pages, we find thirteen cantos comprising the poem “Ave Maria” as Christ’s Mother Mary accompanies her Son through each crucial moment of His life and death. This long poem provides a fitting way to end the book, and yet, an earlier poem, “Oblation,” made me think of her – and us.

“In all that I do
You act;
In all that I say,
You speak;
In all that I wish,
You will;
In all that I am,
You are.”

©2015, Mary Harwell Sayler, writer and reviewer, has 3 books of poems in print: Living in the Nature Poem, published in 2012 by Hiraeth Press; a book of nature poems for children, Beach Songs & Wood Chimes, published in 2014 by Kelsay Books, and the book of Bible-based poems, Outside Eden, also published by Kelsay Books in 2014. She recently completed a fourth book of poems and is now working on more poems based on Bible prayers and stories.

Eyes Have I That See: selected poems, paperback

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Micropoetry and more

Despite the above title, the only real “rule” for micropoetry is less, not more. In versions made popular on Twitter, a micro poem, Tweetku, or Twaiku has 140 characters or less as found by using a hashtag with those words or by typing #micropoetry.

In general, a micro poem might have ten words or less or, more likely, one to six lines.

Some writers of these mini poems prefer the structured form of haiku in its traditional form of the English equivalent of 5/ 7/ 5 syllables respectively on three lines, but contemporary versions of haiku often break with that tradition anyway, giving rise to new mini-forms. Unlike most haiku, though, a micro poem might include rhymes with no reference to nature or any particular season of the year.

A pioneer of micropoetic adventures is Editor-Publisher-Poet Frank Watson, who kindly accepted a couple of my poems last year for his first issue of Poetry Nook. Since he liked my poetry, I suspected I would enjoy his work, too, and so I welcomed the review copies he sent me of his books Seas to Mulberries and The Dollhouse Mirror, published by Plum White Press.

In both books, the poet presents tiny cameos, super-short stories, petite prose poems, or fleeting scenes in miniature. Since I’ve run out of adjectives to tell you about them, let’s look at some micro poems in the first book, Seas to Mulberries.

In a footnote to the poet’s translation of a poem by Li Yi (746-829), we learn that the title phrase “is an idiom reflecting how greatly things can change over time.” Interestingly, that translation from Chinese into four quatrains of English gives us one of the longest poems in the book with examples of change paradoxically showing their timelessness. For instance:

Inquiring on our family names,
Surprised, we begin to see;
We state our names
And reflect upon our changed appearances.

Coming and going, forever changing:
Seas to mulberries, mulberries to seas.
Our words cease
By the evening bell.

More typical, perhaps, is the use of brevity in poetic statements such as:

to feel vs. to know

does it matter
to the soul?

or

you sing
a discordant song
while I play along

Sound echoes of assonance and light rhyme appear in the following poem, too, which also gives us an example of a quickly sketched scene.

desert woman
of the sand

your shadow
touches
an outstretched hand

With few lines to guide our reading of micropoetry, the more we look, the more and more we see story potential:

in history
there is little
but ruined towns

and clouds
that tell a story.

Ironically, perhaps, the first collection of mini-poems by Frank Watson takes up almost 280 pages, whereas the second book, The Dollhouse Mirror, is a slender volume of 58 pages, which I liked as its very slimness contributes to an appropriately slower pace in reading. I also connected more with the immense universality of his micro poems in such lines as these:

to the poet
there is a love of beauty
in all its
terrifying forms

Or:

the forest
curled up
into a story
of stranded souls
away from city lights

As you can see, micro poems may or may not contain punctuation, capitalization, and other markers of English, set often in incomplete sentences as in these lines:

seed planted
on the grave
of yesterday’s tears

But then, you might also find a micro poem completed in one small sentence that memorializes a humorous moment:

a doll stares out
the store window
at the little girl
of her dreams

Using this “form” without a form, a poet can dream or drop in almost anything – past memorabilia, present tensions, and future hopes – with philosophical whispers that linger in our thoughts and in this closing poem:

there is time
enough for weeping
as the dust settles
and all the books
remain closed

©2014, Mary Harwell Sayler, poet, writer, and poetry editor, invites you to Search this blog for previously discussed poetic forms, terminology, or techniques that interest you, then suggest poetry-related topics you would like to see addressed in future posts. Follow the blog, and you won’t miss a thing!

Seas to Mulberries, paperback

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The Dollhouse Mirror, paperback

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