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Tuesday, June 25, 2013

In the Shadow of the Jasmine

Below please find a reprint from Mezzo Cammin; if you would like more, there are more poems by me in the same issue, as well in almost every issue in the archives. And, thanks to poet and editor Kim Bridgford, there are plenty of poems in the journal that rejoice in depth, feeling, rhythm, the sound of words, and shapeliness.
Note on the poem and recent publications: This poem appears in The Foliate Head (UK: Stanza Press, 2012.) My other recent poetry books are the long-poem adventure in blank verse, Thaliad (Montreal: Phoenicia Publishing), and a collection, The Throne of Psyche from Mercer University Press, 2011. (My most recent novel is A Death at the White Camellia Orphanage from Mercer, 2012, winner of The Ferrol Sams Award / current ForeWord BOTYA finalist.) All four are available fromt he usual sources, though the hardcover version of Thaliad is available only through Phoenicia.
In the wake of Mark Edmundson's assault on contemporary poetry, I suggest that readers might look beyond the usually-pushed poets. (If you have a favorite, please tell!) I've only read the Ron Charles review but should be getting a copy of the original Edmundson piece today. 
Their poems “are good in their ways,” he concedes. “They simply aren’t good enough. They don’t slake a reader’s thirst for meanings that pass beyond the experience of the individual poet and light up the world we hold in common.” --Ron Charles quotes Mark Edmundson
More to come on that topic, I imagine...

Update. Thanks to Death Zen for an email copy of the Edmundson piece. And, a bit later, thanks to John O' Grady for a link to a .pdf copy: I am reading it now and would love to hear what other people think.

In the Shadow of Jasmine 

       in the shade--the eternal jasmine's--
       with immaculate joy.
             --Wasyl Barka, "The Mad Woman"

As white as jasmine though more crystalline,
The snow goes on for miles around the house
Under a freighted, leaning sky of ice.
So it has been for months--first the water
Flowing choppily between us, and next
Torrential time, widening the spaces.
Then came the soft relentlessness of snow.
At first I thought one second was enough
To alter us forever and bereave
My soul of you--and so it was--but then
Your face went slipping through my memory
Like water that no human hands can hold
Until I ran along the banks of death,
Stumbling, cutting my feet, calling your name,
And there I glimpsed the shade of you, not torn
In pieces by mad terror's strike . . . To think,
They've named me mad who had divinest sense
Of love for you that would not ebb and die
As others wished, as others would commend!
I knew your voice, your body wavering
As if in ancient glass--you steadied, were
A vision of full-bodied soul, my love,
Who elsewhere lay in fragments in the grave,
And there along the shrapnel-edge of death,
We made the only vows we'll ever have,
To walk past time into the jasmine shade
Where fragrance may be music, where our love
May fuse with light, where we're not as we were.

At night my sheets are white as miles of snow;
My body, restless, aches for what is not,
And when I sleep my dreams are jasmine-lit.
I wander in the moonlight, break the stems
Of closed-up jasmine flowers just at dawn
And make them into tea. Sun's corolla 
Transforms into a single jessamine.

Above your bones I draw in snow a bloom
That glints as if it were a diamond brooch--
A scentless thing with dust at every heart
Of every flake of snow. No matter how
Broken, each crystal star is beautiful,
Fallen from perfection into a world
Infinitely precious, infinitely
Small against the dark and galaxies.
My love, my love, there is no terror here
But only grief that passes and a joy
I cannot share, these stars upon my skin.
I bend to taste the snow, and it is sweet. 


  1. This is absolutely gorgeous Marly. Thank you. How could anyone say contemporary poetry was dead who had read this?

  2. Thanks, Ms. Robbi--

    I very much doubt that Mark Edmundson has ever encountered me--whether he would like this or any other of my poems or no. It's too bad, but it's hard to compass the poetry world.

    I would bet that he hasn't encountered a great many poets beyond the ones in the article. After all, it is a great sea out there, and the critic who deserves the most acclaim will be the one who starts seriously fishing those waters to find what is worthy.

  3. I should add that I'm only on page 63... Will know more soon (in between kid-ferryings.) Part of his job so far is declaring that the Emperors have no clothes, and part is to redress the situation of critics--that they have anointed these Emperors because of their obscurity. That means that the critics then become hyper-important...

  4. Lovely poem. And thanks for the link to the Ron Carlson article.

  5. Lavina, thanks! And the reviewer is Ron Charles... Close! (The article is Mark Edmundson--link lower down.)

  6. Seth Abramson responds at Huffington Post

    David Biespiels responds at The Rumpus

  7. Oh, just beautiful, Marly! Don't let the dead-hearted critics say otherwise.

  8. Thanks, Marja-Leena... I need to come see what you're up to, but I am falling asleep. My youngest has a summer class that starts at seven, and it's rearranging my sleep.

    Not sure he's that! He seems to be very opinionated, which I do not mind, but I'd like to see him look at less "puffed" poets.

  9. I really enjoyed reading your poetry. It is just fabulous. You are on my favorite list with the author Carolyn Mary Kleefeld!

  10. Dear Anonymous,

    Thank you. "Fabulous" is always good!

    I don't know Carolyn Mary Kleefeld but will look her up. There are a lot of poets in the world...


Alas, I must once again remind large numbers of Chinese salesmen and other worldwide peddlers that if they fall into the Gulf of Spam, they will be eaten by roaming Balrogs. The rest of you, lovers of grace, poetry, and horses (nod to Yeats--you do not have to be fond of horses), feel free to leave fascinating missives and curious arguments.