Friday, November 24, 2017

The Whole Picture

My mother has taught me to see color. Whenever we go anywhere together she's alive to every pink blossom and russet leaf along the way.

Two of my favorite Portland poets, Claudia F. Savage and Carolyn Martin, are also especially adept at seeing a full range of colors and textures, without looking through rose-colored lenses. Luckily for all of us, both women have new books out, so we can share their visions. 

Bruising Continents by Claudia F. Savage
Reading Bruising Continents is like sinking your teeth into a pear still warm from the sun. As earthy and generous as a sumptuous feast set out on a table, the pages of this book pulse with images from the natural world. Cells are “suspended fish,” a man has long limbs like a tree, a woman’s hips are “ripe figs.” Celebrating the physicality of being human, Savage lovingly uses the names of body parts throughout her poems – tibia, medulla, clavicle, rib – while also drawing images of the body of our world as she writes about rain and sky and river and hill. In this lyrical love story, the lines between nature and people are erased. While lovers ache for each other, pine needles also “desire to be splendid.” Savage’s poems make us see – and feel – that, like the naked lovers on the cover of Bruising Continents, the environment and human beings are intertwined.

Thin Places by Carolyn Martin   
It’s no wonder I’ve used Carolyn Martin’s poems so often as prompts in my creative writing classes. In her latest book, Martin takes us on a journey from the Japonica that grows in her yard to a Little League game in Taos, New Mexico and a side street in Puerto Vallarta. As her poems travel from place to place, Martin's work maintains a delightful accessibility. Like the former U.S. Poet Laureate Billy Collins, her writing style is as conversational (and entertaining) as a chat with a good friend who has a genial sense of humor combined with a keen eye. In the title poem, she cheerfully writes of “squishing Pacific sand” and sitting at a “smudged computer screen,” and we nod in recognition. Also like Collins, though, Martin never fails to take her poems – and us – someplace unexpected. By the end of "Thin Places," she has moved on from more familiar images to the "quiddity of stars" and "frogs that listen with their mouths.” Nudging this idea even further, Martin's unique vision urges us to close our eyes and “let the darkness concentrate,” a profound concept that leads us into the depths of this perceptive collection.

To hear these two stellar poets reading, join them – and me – on December 4 at the Northwest Library.

Free Range Poetry
Monday, December 4
6:00 - 7: 30 pm
Northwest Library, 2300 NW Thurman, Portland, OR
(the event begins with an open mic – sign-up is at 5:45 pm)