Sunday, December 02, 2012

Mini-Review of Silks, by Roberta Spear

I am an aficionado of used book sales and stores, and admit that openly. Most times, I find out-of-print copies of poetry collections by poets I'd never heard of.

Case in point, Roberta Spear's debut collection, Silks, which was selected by Philip Levine for publication in the 1980 National Poetry Series. The poems offer great emotional depth. There is a strong voice here, unflinching, and unafraid to go into the emotional terrain many folks are reluctant to even glimpse.

Here is a powerful excerpt from the poem "Dust":

This is why I sing.
My voice is the fist of gravel
children fling at an old woman.
I pick up the broom,
beat the step, and laugh at dust
so they'll know I'm still alive.

At once, the speaker of the poem is both the dust being flung, as well as the old woman at whom it is flung. I suspect that the speaker would also admit to, at some point in her life, being the children as well.

As soon as I finished this collection, I wondered why I had not heard more from Spear. According to the poet's web site, Spear died in 2003 following a battle with leukemia. She had published three collections of poetry. Following her death, a new and selected poetry collection was published, as well as a collection of Italian translations of her poems.

Reading the "About Roberta" page on her web site, I noted that in the section labeled "Family Life," it says that although she was a busy mom, "she managed to set aside time to write poetry. She sometimes wrote by staying up late at night when everyone was in bed."

Reading about other poets who have had to chisel out time for their writing always inspires me. I need to purchase other of Spear's books, considering how much I enjoyed this one. For now, I leave you with another excerpt, this time from the poem "The Fiddler's Wife":

Late at night
my husband plays the fiddle
by a candle in his study.
His eyes are heavy
and he is always learning.
Pumping has thickened his right arm
as autumn has the evening air
with its blendings of smoke
and color, and nothing
interrupts him--

not the copper chimes
turned by the wind,
nor the sound of his own heart.

Shadows steal the spindled notes
before they reach me in my sleep
many rooms away,
and what I finally hear is darkness

breaking in my body,
a fine tune.

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