Review by g emil reutter
“The Silver Stain,” they called it, this medieval innovation—
silver nitrate fired onto glass, turning a white surface
sallow, citron, saffron, sulfur—the silver alchemically
aping gold: a crown, a wing, a head of hair, an apricot
or palomino. No longer did the glazier need to cut
a separate slice of yellow, but could tint and fire and tint again—
-First stanza – Stain: Six Meditations on the Craft
And so begins Nathalie Anderson’s Stain. The collection consists of four parts: “Stain”, “Wreckage”, “Crush”, and “Kyoto”. Like the craftsman noted in the above stanza, Anderson’s use of language in each section tints and fires and tints again.
In the poem Revelation – Shatterings at Canterbury she writes: If God is a light inaccessible, /a light beyond our comprehension, then/how shall mere eyes see? Pierce our walls/ with windows, but shade them, shade them. /At Chartres, / light seeps ruby, light pools sapphire. At Sainte Chapelle, /it’s dazzling as diamond, all lux and lumen, / splendor in the glass. Anderson has the eye of a mature poet as this stanza brings the stained glass to life in the word of the shading, of light seeps and lights pools of splendor in the beauty of the glass transformed once again on the page.
The section “Wreckage” brings to life the photograph album of Elize Hodges FitzSimons, an album kept during the Second World War. A master of images, Anderson’s Secret Heart is stunning, such as the second stanza:
Why so mysterious? Against the dark,
Exuberance on exuberance: girls
who’d tell all. Friends like sister; sisters so close
they call each other always only “sister”; a man
grown so familiar, he’s wall, he’s furniture,
he’s shadow; a crowd so tight, who bothers with names?
And again in the second stanza of Old Flame:
The way he sits, canopied in forrest.
Live oak crowns him, crosses him; and Spanish moss
Scrawls over his white t-shirt, shawls his shoulders,
cauls his arm. She’s written by his picture, “Not
a cave man,” but he’s caverned, shadowed, primal.
She brings the photograph to life for the reader with no need for the reader to view it. Her improvisational writing and deliberate use of imagery brings the photograph to life in words.
The section “Crush” ends with an outstanding poem, Troll. The first stanza brings the reader under the bridge with the Troll.
Troll under her bridge, raw from clawing up
her rankling, swollen green with grudgery,
feeling on her spine each splintery plank,
each trip trap tramp, each neat little goat’s hoof.
She’s a cat-fit rash for rocketing, back
Always up, hackles always bristling. She’s
the worm in your apple, thorn in your flesh.
In the final section, Kyoto, Anderson brings the reader to Japan in a series of poems that confirms her position as both a realist and imagist. From the first stanza of Shisen-Do:
For every slightest quaking leaf, a gardener
to lull and hush it. For every flighty gust of green,
a gardener to sleek it, clip the wing. For every spree
of branching limb, a gardener to rein it, bend
back the wrist, twist the arm in. No sprig evades
their balding, no frond their fondest scrutiny.
House of Fallen Persimmons
So quick, the cloud flung
over the garden, trailing
its beaded fringe, that
Under the thunder,
falling suns, their heft
explosive, stormed to bursting:
coronas of succulence.
And then the moon,
all pocks and rots and bruisings.
It softens on my window sill:
Stain by Nathalie Anderson is lyrical with intense imagery driven by realism.