|The Music of What Happens by Geri Rosenzweig|
In a way, an introduction to a collection of poems seems redundant. The
impulse to write speaks for itself in the poems, I can only hope the reader
finds something in them that speaks of the experiences we all share in life.
Poems being moments captured like flies in a web, feelings put into words
using language with a cadence and syntax we rarely use in our everyday
The Editor, Wayne Ray, asked me how I came to use the images/metaphors found in my poems. Let me answer that with a quote by the scholar and translator of Celtic languages, Kuno Meyer. He said "to seek out and watch and love nature, in its tiniest phenomena as in its grandest, was given to no people so early and so fully as the Celt." Well, I believe this attentiveness to nature is not peculiar to the Celts. Anyone who grew up in the country, the rural areas of their land, has that same watchfulness towards nature which Kuno Meyer speaks of. Yet, I am a Celt, born in a small town in the Irish midlands. At the end of our vegetable garden was a little stream I could cross and enter the world of woods and fields, the green places that children love to wander through. Also, in school, we had to memorize Early Irish poems, small poems written by Irish monks as they sat in their cells, sometime in the 7th century, taking a break perhaps from the illuminated manuscripts they worked on. Here is an example of one. It is obviously spring:
The Blackbird of Belfast Lough
The small bird
let a chirp
from its beak.
I heard woodnotes,
To me, that poem, in its language, is precise and clear as the blackbird's
song itself. This is the kind of poetry I "listened" to as a child. Later, I
memorized Wordsworth, Keats. Keats' Ode to Autumn still makes the hair stand up on the back of my neck. Because of where I grew up, metaphors/similes are "out there" in nature, and if I'm lucky they are waiting to be plucked and linked up with seemingly unrelated events, ideas. They are a way of groping for words, a way to enlarge the language. It's fine to say, "I'm lonely" when you're talking with a friend, but in a poem that's going to sound flat. I think of an expression used all the time when I was a kid in Ireland. "Lonely as the cry of a curlew" was the way someone might express their feelings. There is nothing more mournful than the cry of a curlew on a deserted beach, especially on a summer evening in Ireland! The simile broadens the language and deepens the meaning of the word, "loneliness".
Poetry is a way of entry into the buried life of feelings, a retrieval
system whereby the past is brought up and restored to the light of the
present. Often it's a word that haunts the ear and mind before it arrives on
the tongue. That was how the poem, "The Quince", started. I heard the word,
"quince" in my ear. The more I repeated it to myself, the more I though of
something bitter, but so what? I know the fruit is hard, sour and is
processed into jams and jellies, with a large helping of sugar, before it
becomes edible. Weeks went by, I couldn't get away from it, then one day,
lying in bed with a back, two lines 'wrote' themselves in my mind; "when I
was young/under a jasmine moon." Suddenly the memories of the orchard I had robbed one moonlit night in my eight year came flooding back, a magical place watched over by stern owners who knew every kid for miles around plotted, regularly, to rob them of the apples, pears, plums in that glimmering garden.
For me it was the quince,
dazzling, golden on its black branch. I imagined it back then as a soft, juicy sort of
apple. Perhaps that first subversive act
The above essay is Geri Rosenzweig's introduction to her book,
Click here to read Geri Rosenzweig's poems.