The Wine-Dark House by Rustin Larson

A Collection of Reflection

The Wine-Dark House by Rustin Larson

Blue Light Press. 101 Pages. $15.95

Reviewed by Stephen Page

 

Rustin Larson’s The Wine-Dark House is ampleWine-DarkHouseBig with poems. There is certainly sufficient poetry to fill an afternoon of reading. The speaker in the poems is on a quest, a search for something: tranquility in life, redemption for deeds done, or existential meaning—possibly that spiritual plane some people call nirvana.

When a person is pondering the past, memories do not usually appear in consciousness in a linear fashion, beginning from the first memory as a child, ensued by every subsequent memory up to the present. Rather, memories customarily come to mind non-sequentially. When an event or thought triggers a memory in a person, that person remembers something that happened last year, then something that happened as a teenager, followed by something that happened as a child, and then something that happened yesterday. Psychologically, this recollection process is known as associative memory. Similarly, Larson structures the book to follow the way the narrator is remembering events. The poems jump around in time. One poem is about an adult-relationship breakup, and the next poem is about a childhood incident. The entire collection is bound together by association.

Each poem in Larson’s book is packed with as much detail as a short story. The narrator often alludes to literary works, famous as well as infamous people, easily identifiable locations on the globe, and renowned historical events that either relate to the poems thematically, or place the memories in history for the reader. The poems do not adhere to any one form, but rather, they take form as their contents require. Larson’s writing style is multifarious.

The book is a good, long read. Every line in every poem makes a reader want to slow down and absorb every word. The experience is poly-sensuous, given Larson’s superb poetics. Larson is successful in that he writes outstanding poetry. Period.

Subscript: In The Wine-Dark House, Larson writes poems that demonstrate how memory works. The scenes are the narrator’s memories, but none-the-less, the situations are universal enough that a reader will access and empathize. The book is worth reading, if only for the rich language and the complete story each poem tells.

 

 

An Iris Anthropomorphized 

First published by Classic Book Club

Wild Iris by Louise Glück

Review supplied by Stephen Page

In The Wild Iris, Louise Glück allows flowers and other plants to speak. A gardener tending the plants also speaks, most often in prayer. Another voice, the deity prayed to by the gardener, speaks omnisciently. Glück’s garden, like life, brings unexpected joys and disappointments—the first sprouts, an early bloom, reoccurring weeds, a too-soon death. Although a reader may initially find it confusing who is speaking in the poems, I think Glück did this for a reason.

The first poem in the collection grants an iris voice:

“At the end of my suffering
there was a door.

Hear me out: that which you call death
I remember.

Overhead, noises, branches of the pine shifting.
Then nothing. The weak sun
flickered over the dry surface.

It is terrible to survive
as consciousness
buried in the dark earth.

Then it was over: that which you fear, being
a soul and unable
to speak, ending abruptly, the stiff earth
bending a little. And what I took to be
birds darting in the low shrubs.

You who do not remember
passage from the other world
I tell you I could speak again: whatever
returns from oblivion returns
to find voice:

from the center of my life came
a great fountain, deep blue
shadows on azure seawater.”

The book’s major themes are set up in this first poem: death (as metaphoric winter), resurrection, and the role of nature. The iris has survived winter as a bulb or rhizome. It rises again in spring with a vague sense of a suffered life and a dream-like dormancy. The questions a reader may ask are: Does the flower actually speak, and, is anyone listening? A partial answer may be in the very next poem, the first in a series of ‘Matins’ (morning prayer).

“. . . Noah says
depressives hate the spring, imbalance
between the inner and outer world. I make
another case—being depressed, yes, but in a sense passionately
attached to the living tree, my body
actually curled in the split trunk, almost at peace,
in the evening rain
almost able to feel
sap frothing and rising: Noah says this is
an error of depressives, identifying
with a tree whereas the happy heart
wanders the garden like a falling leaf, a figure for
the part, not the whole.”

Here the gardener speaks to a deity while simultaneously revealing to the reader her mental state and personality—she is depressed and identifies with a plant. She projects herself into the plant. Since Noah has told her she should think of herself as an entity detached from the rest of the world, he is probably rebutting her theory that we all are a part of a whole.

The next ‘Matins’ refers to the Garden of Eden. Eve realizes her mortality and feels abandoned by God. The next three poems, ‘Trillium’, ‘Lamium’, and ‘Snowdrops,’ are plant poems that reemphasize themes of despair, death, resurrection, and instinctual (though vague) memories of past lives.

“When woke up I was in a forest. The dark
seemed natural, the sky through the pine trees
thick with many lights.

. . .

This is how you live when you have a cold heart.
As I do: in shadows, trailing over rock,
under the great maple trees.

. . .

do you know what I was, how I lived? You know
what despair is; then
winter should have meaning for you.

I did not expect to survive,
earth suppressing me. I didn’t expect
to waken again, to feel
damp in the earth my body
able to respond again, remembering
after so long how to open again . . .”

With the next poem, ‘Clear Morning,’ a reader logically concludes that Morning is speaking, because of the title but also because the previous ‘flower poems’ use similar first person points-of-view while addressing the gardener as “you.” What the reader actually hears in the poem is the voice of God.

“I’ve watched you long enough,
I can speak to you any way I like—

I’ve submitted to your preferences, observing patiently
the things you love, speaking

through vehicles only, in
details of earth, as you prefer,

tendrils
of blue clematis, light

of early evening—
you would never accept

a voice like mine, indifferent
to the objects you busily name,

your mouths
small circles of awe—

And all this time
I indulged your limitations, thinking

you would cast it aside yourselves sooner or later,
thinking matter could not absorb your gaze forever—

obstacles of the clematis painting
blue flowers on the porch window—

I cannot go on
restricting myself to images

because you think it is your right
to dispute my meaning:

I am prepared now to force
clarity upon you.

God is condescending, angry, fed up. He is the jaded creator, scolding and didactic, detached yet fatherly. He is tired of listening to
meager human concerns and is tired of speaking through “vehicles,” yet He paradoxically disguises himself as Morning.”

Reading back over the previous flower poems, then reading further in the book, a reader will note that the flowers and other plants expound on topics that initiate within the mind of the gardener. They also speak in a patronizing tone (a personality trait of the God
portrayed); e.g., “hear me out,” “what are you saying?” and “Not I, you idiot.”

The rest of the collection continues similarly. God scolds the gardener, flowers and plants echo the gardener in a Godly timbre, and the gardener pleads to God using plant-life analogies. They all take turns speaking, as if allowing each other input in a conversation—yet, ironically, amongst all this verbal exchange, very little communication takes place. God hears the gardener but does not listen to her. The plants scream but the gardener appears deaf. God bellows, but nobody hears him. Obviously the book is written not so the characters will learn and change, but so the reader may decipher and conclude.

Glück crafts stunning poetry in this collection. Her imagery is vibrant, her language immediate, her personification convincing. The major debate throughout the collection, whether we actually resurrect or not, comes to no clear conclusion—in fact, contradictory answers are given. In one poem it is said that the soul is eternal. In another it says nothing lasts forever. The book could be read as stating that the Biblical order of things does not exist, that florae are not the lowest forms on earth, and that we as humans do not ascend to heaven.  A canonical gardener drives the collection, but Glück leaves open the option for a non-anthropomorphic God—one who has no conceivable form. Ambivalence in speaker voice may be a way to say that we are all
connected—human beings, nature, and God. Since plants attempt to answer the questions the narrator is asking, and since God speaks through the elements, it seems that Glück is saying that understanding nature is a way of comprehending the physical and
spiritual makings of the world—one only has to listen well and weigh the contradictions.

The Timbre of Sand by Stephen Page

The Timbre of Sand, by Stephen Page

with reviews, comments, and links below

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Book Cover

Front Cover Photo Timbre
Book jacket cover design
 

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Links to buy Timbre:

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The Timbre of Sand

By Stephen Page

 further comments

“The poet chooses to make the sonnet form contemporary and succeeds in creating a powerful and distinctive music . . . Keats-like in the sensuous attention to language and its cadences, The Timbre of Sand adds to our consciousness of the world and nourishes us in the process. With his first book, Page makes an impressive debut that deserves an enthusiastic audience.”

                                                      —–Colette Inez – author of Clemency and Naming the Moons

“He is able to take a microcosm and create a universe . . . I find his ear for language the caliber of some of the finest poets.”

—–Ernesto Sabato – author of On Heroes and Tombs and The Tunnel

“His poetry is distinguished.”

—–Raymond Kennedy – author of The Bitterest Age and Lulu Incognito

“It is as good and as stylish as any I have read in Atlantic Monthly or the New Yorker. Steve will only continue to grow in his craft. He is a writer of unusual promise.”

—–Leonard G. Shurtleff – writer for The Economist

Page should be applauded. It is always of interest to see how today’s poets approach strong measures, and the quantity of his one straight shot is impressive, not to mention quite good quality. It definitely makes for a very nice song.

—–Shaadi Khoury – The New York Spectacle

“Full of science, philosophy, mathematics, and meter.”

—-Jennifer Chris – The Detroit Chronicle

 

“Women up on Blocks,” by Mary Akers as reviewed by Stephen Page


Women up on Blocks,” by Mary Akers as reviewed by Stephen Page on How Journal:

http://www.howjournal.com/women-up-on-blocks-by-mary-akers/

The Psychologist and the Foreign Language Teacher By Wilga M. Rivers

ThePsychologistAndTheForeignLanguageTeacherCvrHardcover: 220 pages
Publisher: Univ of Chicago Pr (Tx); 1St Edition edition (June 1964)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0226720950
ISBN-13: 978-0226720951
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 .
Review by S. M. Page
 .
Halfway through the second chapter of The Psychologist and the Foreign Language Teacher, I began having flashbacks.  Putting on a coat and tie.  Walking to class on a clear bright day, carrying a briefcase.  Walking to class on a rainy day, whistling, holding an umbrella.  Entering the classroom and being called “Prof” and “Teach.”  The scent of chalk-dust, the sound of books opening and pens scribbling.  The satisfaction I feel when I am helping somebody learn something and I see the look on their face when they realize they have learned something.  The cortical sensation I get from stimulating conversation with my advanced students.  Having students come up to me after a class and saying, “thanks.”  I haven’t taught in two-and-a-half years, but I realize how much I miss it.  The book is intelligently written and the “audio-lingual” method is clearly outlined and explained.  She is correct in believing that the translation method does not work well.  It makes the student lazy and creates too many steps in the neural pathways.  The only comment I would make to the author is that the drilling method is only appropriate for the beginner student.  I taught many methods, Berlitz style drilling, grammar methods, and natural-speaking methods.  The latter seems to work the best, but only on the post-beginner levels.  After the first few months the drilling becomes unnatural and a bore.  She does bring up a lot of clever points, most notably:
Language is speech . . .Language is a set of habits . . . Teach the language, not about the language . . . listening, speaking, reading, and writing.  These four skills must be learned “in that order” (that is the way children learn). . . mastery of the skills must be accompanied by familiarity with the culture the language represents, as well as a larger view of life resulting from the realization that there are many cultures and value systems, some far different from our own . . . Learning to make responses in situations which simulate “real-life” communication situations . . . When language is in action, there is always a speaker.  He is always somewhere, speaking to someone, about something . . . and word-lists pairing foreign-language words with “equivalents” in the native language should not be used for teaching purposes.
The book is a technical but good read, and I would recommend it to anyone teaching a foreign language.
 .
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S. M. teaching Engilsh2No one knows where S. M. Page came from or where he is going, but it rumored he likes Motown music, and that he is part Shawnee and part Apache.  It is also reported that he was recently been seen riding his Harley through a mountain pass, wandering a patch of woods with a notebook in his hand, sitting on a beach watching a sunrise, entering a movie theater with his wife, walking his son to school, cheering in the stands of a football match, teaching English to employees in a South American corporate bank, and standing on a stage playing bass in a rock-n-roll band.
originally posted on Fox Chase Review

 

Fox Chase Review

ThePsychologistAndTheForeignLanguageTeacherCvrHardcover: 220 pages
Publisher: Univ of Chicago Pr (Tx); 1St Edition edition (June 1964)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0226720950
ISBN-13: 978-0226720951
.
 .
Review by S. M. Page
 .
Halfway through the second chapter of The Psychologist and the Foreign Language Teacher, I began having flashbacks.  Putting on a coat and tie.  Walking to class on a clear bright day, carrying a briefcase.  Walking to class on a rainy day, whistling, holding an umbrella.  Entering the classroom and being called “Prof” and “Teach.”  The scent of chalk-dust, the sound of books opening and pens scribbling.  The satisfaction I feel when I am helping somebody learn something and I see the look on their face when they realize they have learned something.  The cortical sensation I get from stimulating conversation with my advanced students.  Having students come up to me after a class and saying, “thanks.”  I haven’t taught in two-and-a-half…

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Stephen Page reviews Winter Stars by Larry Levis

Fox Chase Review

winter stars 2Series: Pitt Poetry Series

Paperback: 104 pages

Publisher: University of Pittsburgh Press; 1 edition (March 31, 1985)

Language: English

ISBN-10: 0822953684

ISBN-13: 978-0822953685

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Reviewed by Stephen (S. M.) Page.

When I wake I sip coffee and I am suddenly inspired to add a few more pages to my current poetry project, the verse play (or play-poem, a term I coined, I think).  Then I take a shower and decide I need to get out the house.  I have been inside for almost 48 hours.  I check the weather channel on the net and see that it is 97 degrees outside–with humidity.  I dress accordingly.  I put on a short sleeve linen shirt, linen shorts, leather sandals, a cotton baseball cap.  In the elevator I feel a trickle of sweat run down by belly from my chest.  The street smells of melting tar and car exhaust.  Buses rev their engines…

View original post 883 more words