You’ve surely seen all the fanfare on TNB lately about The Beautiful Anthology (TNB Books, June 2012), a collection of essays, stories and some poetry on the topic of beauty. Thanks to the tireless efforts of editor Elizabeth Collins the book has emerged as a very beautiful physical object full of diverse, witty, engaging pieces. There has already been a fair bit written about the essays in this volume, but given my whole-hearted insistence that poetry is the queen of all forms of writing, I decided a look at Erato’s hand on the book is in order.
The first poem in TBA is “Upland Fall” by the rather mysterious Stephen Walter. Here is a poet of whom I’d love to know more, though his very reticent bio doesn’t help a great deal. Walter’s easy iambic tetrameter quatrains (rhymed ABAB) tell of a beautiful hike through a September landscape, and a prefigured departure.
October and the Tupelo
Ignites into a glossy blaze;
Uphill the dogwood is aglow
With scarlet drupes set in a haze
Of dusky red as she lies slack
Half-sleeping, head upon his arm.
She will be gone soon, the lady, and the last sighting of northern summer before the ritual death of day represented by the winter months. That winter looms in the narrator’s imagination at the close of the poem, despite his companion’s wise words that “We love the season best when we / Forget where it is heading.”
After such a strong start I was eager for “Summate” by Judy Prince, which is more eastern in its take, a brief collection of images that suggest the artistic designer of a marionette set, sculptor of a Galatea from whose love-struck yearning the poem’s lines:
my heart topples
in the warm caliper
of your hand,
The next poem in the volume is by Catherine Tufariello, a sonnet titled “Meditation in Middle Age.”
Beauty is youth, youth beauty; that is all,
A truth that you can straight-arm or embrace
When eyes slide past you, and your mother’s face
Looks from the mirror, mirror on the wall.
Tufariello describes an arc which begins with the childhood knot, focused on the surrounding wonder and beauty of the world, but which slopes to attention to one’s own beauty, until, over time, as the mirror becomes less and less flattering, one turns back to the childhood habit of looking outward. The mirror of attention transforms gradually back to the unsilvered window it once was.
The last poem is by TNB resident poet-performer and my fellow TNB Poetry editor Rich Ferguson.
What I want: for you to write on my flesh everything you see and hear when you sleep. Wanna believe the pen outlasts the blade. Freedom outlasts the chains.
I wanna shred your self-doubt, refold it into a confident origami.
Wanna see you go out into the night, take a deep breath. Sip in stars, planets, moonbeams. Let me visit the solar system in your head. Let me be asteroid, nebula. Let us become the Universe of We.
Ferguson also contributed the backing track to the book trailer for TBA, featuring one of his poems set to music.
My contribution to TBA is not a poem, but an essay, “21st Century Beauty in Poetry” which does contain a lot of snippets of poetry, including quite a few I translated myself from Greek, Spanish and French. You’ll find bits of Dylan Thomas, José Gorostiza, Edmund Spenser, Suheir Hammad, Tara Betts, Léopold Senghor and more.
Melite, yours are eyes of Hera, hands of Athena, Breasts of Aphrodite, ankles of Thetis.
He is happy who beholds you, thrice happy who hears you,
A demi-god who kisses you, and immortal who shares your bed.
(Epigram xxxv, by Rufinus, with a tiny nod toward’s Sappho’s cameo on TNB).
Do get yourself a copy of the book, and come back to leave a comment with your thoughts on the poetry in TBA.