We were delighted to read Rachel Barenblat's appreciative review of Ren Powell's "Mercy Island" today, at her blog The Velveteen Rabbi.
Rachel speaks of her appreciation of Ren's poems about growing up, "childhood, in these poems, isn't necessarily safe" and also mentions her own anguish at reading "Girl-talk with the Poet from Ramallah" which speaks of horrors endured by a Palestinian girl.
But she also writes that the book contains great beauty. At the end of her review, Rachel quotes the first stanza of "View From an Island," the final poem in the book,
I am a Russian Doll
land within land
and says: "I love the opening couplet with its suggestion that each of us contains multitudes within ourselves. Lichen, heather, craggy beauty, mackerel slapping on the dock: despite all of our human sorrow, these beauties remain... This is a gorgeous collection of poems."
Inheriting the Garden
We promised ourselves we'd plant posies
but all that time the bed lay barren.
It was summer when we moved from that place.
And the world seemed filled
with the bursting of dandelions.
The former tenants of this house understood seasons:
snowdrops, lemoinei, jackmanii --
But now, here, in late autumn
two monstrous roses press,
vulgar against the kitchen windowpane.
And too often at breakfast
I find myself holding my breath.
from Ren Powell's Mercy Island: New and Selected Poems
From Moira Richards:
Like the ages-old ghazal, of which I counted three in this collection, Ren Powell's poetry evokes musicality and sung lament. Like the couplets of a ghazal, the lines of her poems form discrete, seemingly unconnected units that nevertheless resonate a unity through their juxtapositionings. Like one long ghazal, these poems are all strung together on a refrain; on a recurrence of barely suppressed chaos - nightmare, perhaps; not a spoken refrain, but an unspoken refrain - as if the narrator, only by 'negotiating a new language' is able to speak of the unspeakable, to say the unsayable.
Moira Richards, South African poet and author, is the co-editor of Letters to the World: poems from the Wom-po Listserv, a collection of 259 poets spanning 19 countries and five continents
In the Chicago area? Ren Powell will be reading from her new book "Mercy Island" on Wednesday evening and would love to see you there!
POETRY READING/BOOK SIGNING
Lincoln Township Public Library
7:00PM Wednesday, March 9th
Author Rachel Barenblat will be presenting poems, answering questions, and signing books in the Boston area on March 12th and 13th:
* "Lunch and Learn" reading/discussion after services at Bnai Or, the Jewish Renewal congregation of Boston, March 12 (after services - noonish.) Some poems will be featured during the service as well. All are welcome to attend the service (which will be accessible & engaging) or just to come for the lunch-and-learn; if you can, please let me know if you're planning to come so I can let them know roughly how many visitors to expect! And bring a bag lunch.) Andover Newton Theological School, 210 Herrick Road, Newton Centre.
* Reading/signing in the parlor of the First Parish Unitarian Universalist Church of Arlington, sponsored by the Jewish Connections group, March 13, 2:30pm. 630 Mass Ave, Arlington Center. (Parking is on the other side of Mass Ave in municipal parking lots -- both directly across Mass Ave and diagonally across the Arlington Center intersection, with an entrance on Route 60/Mystic Street. Parking is free on Sundays.)
One of the most satisfying aspects of editing qarrtsiluni is that we get to work not only with writers but artists, and to publish their images, building a visual vocabulary that enlarges each issue's theme. This painting, by Welsh artist Clive Hicks-Jenkins, is a modern interpretation of the story of the prophet Elijah being fed by ravens, found in the Bible; it appears in "Words of Power."
Dave Bonta and I discuss this painting, the Elijah story it illustrates, and raven behavior in a short podcast along with the original post. We also talk about other paintings of the same story, particularly this one by British painter Albert Herbert, showing a raven giving a man a host-like piece of bread, and end up with stories of talking crows!
Above: Elijah and the Raven by Albert Charles Herbert (1925-2008)
Clive Hicks-Jenkins (website, blog) has worked as an actor in film and on TV, and was a highly successful choreographer, director, and stage designer before switching his focus to painting in the mid-90s. He has exhibited regularly with the Attic Gallery in Swansea, the Martin Tinney Gallery in Cardiff, Keith Chapman Modern Art in London, and Anthony Hepworth Fine Art in Bath, and has had well-received exhibitions in public galleries. He has been a member of The Welsh Group since 1997, exhibiting with them throughout Wales, in Scotland, Ireland, France and also in the USA, and 56 Group Wales since 2004. In 2008 he was nominated a Royal Cambrian Academician. After working from a studio in central Cardiff for several years, he recently moved to Mid Wales.
It all depends on where you look.
Phoenicia editor and publisher Beth Adams takes a close look at the recently-released statistics on the gender gap in traditional literary journals vs. online publishing, using qarrtsiluni as an example, on her blog The Cassandra Pages. The conclusions may surprise you!
from Rachel Barenblat's 70 Faces:Torah Poems, here is
We shall not know with what we are to worship the Lord until we arrive there. —Exodus 10:26
Maybe God wants goats
scruffy and bleating.
The richest colors we know.
The taste of coffee, dark and smooth.
Maybe God wants smoke
from the trees our children will fell.
The songs we sing
when it's late and no one can hear.
The Holy One will tell us
what sacrifices are required,
blood or water poured on the altar
sluicing down to the earth below.
Does God want our grief?
Hopes raised, then dashed
like pears against a rock.
Maybe God wants us not to give up.
We must bring all that we are
so when that Voice speaks
we can open our chests
and pull out what's inside.
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