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Motherland: Poems Paperback – 29 May 2020
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- Publisher : Able Muse Press (29 May 2020)
- Language : English
- Paperback : 126 pages
- ISBN-10 : 1773490435
- ISBN-13 : 978-1773490434
- Dimensions : 15.24 x 0.81 x 22.86 cm
- Customer Reviews:
A core of spiritual knowledge resides in the poems of Sally Thomas's Motherland-- knowledge that might seem strange to the poet herself, in fact, though it definitely resides in her, and radiates throughout this collection. Motherland is the perfect title, since the poet, herself a mother, regards all her human occupations as native and yet mysterious, occurring in a place which is both foreign and familiar. The final sequence, on Richeldis of Walsingham, includes lines that describe the expression of that knowledge, as "the eloquence/ Of the small river moving always forward to the unseen/ Sea." Motherland is a book of the presence--radiant, benevolent, challenging--for which there is often no word, except as we find in poetry, like the poetry of Sally Thomas."
--Mark Jarman, author of The Heronry
The poems of Sally Thomas are poems in which the act of looking at the world in all its depth and complexity is just about as close as possible to being fully realized in the corresponding "world" of poetic language and form. And the verses are compelling because in every line something is at stake our very understanding of creation, the human condition, and the mystery of thought and its language that link us, however imperfectly, to what may be called the given world. As Thomas says in "Frost," "Tricky winter light and my own eye/ Bend the world, if not to beauty, then/ To strangeness."
--David Middleton (from the foreword), author of The Fiddler of Driskill Hill
In her most recent collection of poems, Motherland, Sally Thomas gives us a world we live in but, alas, too often don't seem to see. So much is lost, these poems tell us, even as they manage to reinstate and re-imagine these losses for us. All poetry is elegiac, even as it can, in the hands of a serious poet, celebrate the very world which for all of us keeps slipping away in the great wheel of time. Then too there is her mastery of poetic form--among these the sonnet, the villanelle, the couplet, and her unparalleled command of rhyme and slant rhyme. What a delight to discover a poet who has found a way to allow the sacred and the sacramental inform her poems in a surprising range of contemporary idioms.
--Paul Mariani, author of Epitaphs for the Journey
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I’m drawn in by the evocative settings, like this ponderous seascape:
“Saltmarshes’ silver mazes pock with rain.
This island’s a curving fossil spine
In a broken white
Scree of breakers. Wet
Thunderheads pile like dirty rags above it.”
And there’s a delicious tension in the way the speakers of these poems perceive the world:
“Tricky winter light and my own eye
Bend the world, if not to beauty, then
To strangeness, on which the cold sun
Shines, and the grass shines back like knives.”
Underscoring the whole collection is a beautiful expression of spiritual longing tempered with contentment, “A wordless shape-note singing / on the sky.” What a mesmerizing book to return to again and again!
It was long ago, and they are dead.
I never knew them, but I think about them.
The story left untold becomes a story
I can tell myself until it's true.
I never knew them, but I think about them,
These grim ladies in black high-collared dresses.
I can tell myself until it's true
That they've been laughing. The camera turns on them,
And they are grim: thee ladies, black high collared dresses,
Three aunts posed beneath a catalpa tree.
They've been laughing. The camera turns on them
The weight of being seen forever like that--
Three aunts posed beneath a catalpa tree,
Unloved and unremembered, three brown names,
The weight of being seen forever. Like that,
They fade. The catalpa tree dissolves,
Unloved and unremembered, brown tree of names
No one can read, unraveling into the sky.
They fade, the catalpa tree dissolves,
A dark age overtakes them like sleep.
No one can read them. Unraveling into the sky
Like breath, their slender memory's unwritten.
A dark age overtakes them. While they sleep
I will tell their story to myself,
All breath, all the memories unwritten,
All the names wrong, the dates mis-guessed.
This is the story I keep telling myself--
What does time matter to a story?
So the names are wrong, the dates mis-guessed.
The sun's handprints among the catalpa leaves
Are all the time that matters to this story
In which three women glower at the camera
Through sunlight handprinted by catalpa leaves,
A day on which anything might have happened
To these three who glower at the camera
Daring it to mistake them for the Fates.
On this day, anything might have happened.
All I know is that they stand there glowering.
Daring the camera. Looking like the Fates
Who stare down their own unknowable future.
I know that the three of them stand glowering.
They cannot imagine that I will see them
Stare down their own unknowable future,
Where I stand, on the far side of the grave.
Do they imagine someone like me? Who will see us,
They might be wondering. Who will love us?
Who will know us on the far side of the grave?
Does the long loneliness look back at them?
Well might they wonder, Who will love us?
The relative they visited are dead.
The long loneliness has looked back at them,
And in that moment I don't know what they are doing,
Which relative, now dead, they are visiting,
Why they've gathered beneath the catalpa.
In that moment, what have they stopped doing?
Saved from time, what can they be thinking
While the white sun glares through the catalpa?
Though the story left untold becomes a story,
Time doesn't care what they are thinking.
They are dead, and it was long ago.
A falcon on a wire
Against the laden sky
Scanned his brown empire
With a black-ice eye.
Nothing beneath him stirred
In that sunless instant,
But my heart, for a keen-eyed bird
Blind to me, or indifferent.