Thursday, November 30, 2006


J. LECLERC Reviews

GARNET LANTERNS by Sally Rosen Kindred
(The Anabiosis Press, 2006)

Far from Fallujah and the Khyber Pass comes a poet woman from Baltimore -- City of Poe, of Unitas, of Billie Holiday. City of the dark ravens -- and of the orioles, with their black and orange raiment.

Call a woman Sarah, or Susannah, or Ruth. Call her Mary. Call this woman by her name in truth -- Sally Rosen Kindred. Ms. Kindred teaches poetry writing on-line to high school students. She works through the John Hopkins Center for Talented Youth. She lives with her husband and her adoptive son.

Kindred’s steel mesh poetry spins out of her family experience and her own sense of being in the world.

Is she a poet of some “domestic” school? No. No, that wouldn’t get it at all. But, to give you an idea of where she’s coming from, consider the first two sentences of “YOUR ARM” -- a spousal love poem out of a mage’s mouth.

I call it thick music, I call it milk, and bread,
your skin under my tongue under the night-blue roof
of some twilight town we’ve never seen.
I call it sweet engine driving your hand
to my eye, coarse magic, one wand
over the water.

There you have one angle of her poetic idea. The marital erotic expressed as milk, bread, a night-blue roof, a twilight town, sweet engine, coarse magic. Yes. Magic. Be it coarse or satin.

Then there’s “RED LIFE”. Red is one the Kindred specials. One of the alchemical words in SRK’s heart-crafted lexicon. Red. The color of fire and ripe apples and blood. One color of a world that finally drains down, drains down to one variant color, drains down to Rust and Brown (see “TO EVE” –- first cut of the text under discussion).

The second poem in the tome (after “TO EVE” but, before “YOUR ARM”) is “TO NOAH”. A stripped down abridgement might go a bit like this:

At some point you have to rise…,
and find the water, the broken world,
the wet mud-and-milk gut of the earth
risen and spilled over what you remember

and wolf-colored waves gaping and turning
under winds gray as the death-coat
someone’s thrown over the moon.

Mud and milk join red in the Kindred notebook of chant-words. And what of wolf-colored waves?

Pure poetry. It was that way a long, long time ago, with Homer and his wine-dark sea.

But, then again, I was writing of the poem named “RED LIFE”. Within it I treasure these passages:

Form is Baltimore
summer, desire. Form’s boastful, wearing scarves for a season///////
form’s not ready for bed. She kicks
at pink sheets in the lucky dark.///////
Form’s a waltz with Jeremiah, the most
defeatist prophet.///////
Form is the last best
daughter, who holds for red life to the rain.///////

Why search for the “logical”, the “objective” paraphrase for such beautiful writing? Its very being is its only necessary justification.


hurling birds up into
the botched sky. A burden
starless and rough
as gopher wood.

pine morning’s reckoning
of red birds on ice, the wrenched
amber chords of the lioness.

that was self-doubt,
the shattered ocean
of your mistaken Word.

Reading this recent chapbook through one time, then twice, then thrice -- I got the feeling I had a much-read little classic in my hand. But that feeling is not shared in the world outside my reading mind.

Why does America not know of its fine poets? Why do such poets not read before throngs in great stadiums? Why not a new and radiant talent's arrival greeted by general acclaim? Why such quiet? Why such comprehensive lack of recognition? We cannot hear. I say we cannot hear elational words in our national lightning stricken atmosphere.

Now what follows in this review is a succession of brilliant fragments abstracted from the red and raven striped line of GARNET LANTERNS' beautiful, mystic, and common sensical poems.

elephants and airplanes nose up
from the deep sands of his dreams

Tell me. I want to love you. Say you'd believe
when everything soaked itself in blue,
the color angels wear when they've learned something.

You are the bird that does not come back.
Your wife waits
at the prow's edge.

The silver taste of olive
stuns the tongue with rain's
divine dark splinters, as you
who fed us forty nights must know.

She does not want to know about my own palms torn
on the cedar as I sanded the boards.

My first night at the theatre was Noah's Ark
at Friendly Road First Baptist, an all-youth

production: for our neighbor's eyes and all God's rain
I traded my snouted, thick-laced correctives

for one night's shine of Mary Janes.

Ask yourself
If you will be the dove, gray bird
That returns bearing gospel greens,
Or the raven, spool of unraveling pitch,
The bird that does not come back.

Penultimately, From "NO EDEN"
Sad pear. God gave you
No fine story. Eve walked right past
Your twilight body

And, to close, From "ANIMAL DARK"
Somewhere to the left of this story
There's a moment when everyone's inside,
Everyone's saved, and it's enough to be alive
In the warm animal dark,
Alive in the journey through wreckage and Writ-
But back at the center, there's just
A family awake through a storm
There are fists of wind
Hammering walls,
There are adders in the straw.

"GARNET LANTERNS" is both inspired by, and is a critique of the Old Testament. The Book of Genesis and those of the Prophets are the texts referenced throughout the work. The critical element of the chapbook points (or hints) at inequities in the contemporary social and political order, but the use of solely ancient texts suggests that Kindred's idea is that humankind is in a fallen condition. But her argument begins, rather than ends there. She rejects a fatalistic religiosity. She is all for the rotting away of apples of discord, all for giving up the wait for roving, scavenger ravens, all for casting out adders.

"ISAIAH REPLIES" ends with these words of the yearning of human life. Red life.

They do not want a prophet's words
They are ready for salvation,
The brief whistle of eternity.
They are ready to split into song.


J. LeClerc is a writer of both prose and poetry who works for the Goshen Public Library and Historical Society. He is also the guitarist and musical arranger of the poetry/performance group The Janet Hamill Unit. He resides in the Hudson River Valley with his wife, the poet Janet Hamill


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