the way back by joyce meyers

Summer Reading Recommendations

sunrise woods 1

Photograph by g emil reutter

 

Here are the top ten book reviews based on readership at North of Oxford for the first six month of 2017. Consider them for your summer reading.

 

Magnesium by Ray Buckley

https://northofoxford.wordpress.com/2017/05/01/magnesium/

Shoot the Messenger by John Dorsey

https://northofoxford.wordpress.com/2017/05/01/shoot-the-messenger/

100 Selected Poems by e.e. cummings

https://northofoxford.wordpress.com/2017/01/01/100-selected-poems-by-e-e-cummings/

Unmaking Atoms by Magdelina Ball

https://northofoxford.wordpress.com/2017/06/01/unmaking-atoms-by-magdalena-ball/

The Way Back by Joyce Meyers

https://northofoxford.wordpress.com/2017/06/01/the-way-back-by-joyce-meyers/

Seek the Holy Dark by Clare L. Martin

https://northofoxford.wordpress.com/2017/07/01/seek-the-holy-dark-by-clare-l-martin/

Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf’s Poetics

https://northofoxford.wordpress.com/2017/03/03/whos-afraid-of-virginia-woolfs-poetics/

Martin Fierro by Jose Hernandez

https://northofoxford.wordpress.com/2017/07/01/martin-fierro-by-jose-hernandez/

Bird Flying through the Banquet by Judy Kronenfeld

https://northofoxford.wordpress.com/2017/06/01/bird-flying-through-the-banquet-by-judy-kronenfeld/

Justine by Lawrence Durrell

https://northofoxford.wordpress.com/2017/01/01/justine-by-lawrence-durrell/

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The Way Back by Joyce Meyers

the way back
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Review by David P. Kozinski
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The title of Joyce Meyers’ first full-length book of poems points to the various journeys that the contents convey. The Way Back (Kelsay Books) presents tableaux of travels to other lands, through history and life’s challenges in language that is mostly spare and straightforward and always elegantly rendered.
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The book begins where life on Earth began, in “Water”, then touches on evolution in “Darwin’s Finches” and “Beginnings” and sojourns briefly in ancient history, as well as in the studios and lives of artists like Michelangelo and Frida Kahlo. Meyers explores family history and relationships, celebrations of life and the challenges of aging and facing death, nature and the threatened environment with clarity and precision, through a consciousness well aware of the ephemeral nature of everything we can see and touch, cherish and imagine.
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The personal and specific lead the reader to contemplations of universal subjects, with careful attention to the music of words. The first stanza of “Cooking School” reads
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                        Here you learn to peel
                        yourself like an onion. Start
                        with the skin, translucent,
                        crisp as parchment.
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Later, the Tuscan chef guides the narrator’s fingers, “as I shape the pasta dough / in the shadow / of my mother’s hands.” Her mother, aging and frail, waits far away, “hands fluttering in her lap / like broken wings.” In “Nursing Home” the narrator surprises her mother with a plate of shrimp cocktail and olives. The poem concludes
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                        Too much, she says
                        before she eats it all.
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                        When we wheel her back
                        to the day room, she grabs
                        my hand and won’t let go.
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The strong sentiments, familiar to those who have experienced parents’ decline, are deftly conveyed through images of hands and without sentimentality.
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“Impermanence” is both the title of a poem in The Way Back and a theme that streams through it. The poem begins, “opening the door to morning / the sky rinsed clean // the shroud of grief lifted / by the wind” and touches on the cycles that have long fascinated scientist and poet alike: “yet you were once / a mountain, a star // and will be again.”
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Poems like “Aubergine” and “Ajar” deal with the nature of existence – its impermanence and fragility. In the former, we find the narrator preparing ratatouille on a winter morning with Mozart playing on the radio, but are abruptly pulled from the tranquil scene in the second stanza, which presents a neighbor, assaulted by her son, facing, “a choice between his intolerable behavior / and the impossible side effects / of the only drug known to control it.”  The contrast of the two stanzas is echoed within the end of the second, starting with violence in Israel and “a glimpse / of how it will be when that tinder box ignites,” and concludes by letting us know that, during that same week, the narrator “fell in love again / and again with my husband.” Despite living in a world that knows much horror and sorrow, she will serve the ratatouille to her grandson, hoping it will help him forget for a while his parents’ divorce and later, practice dance steps she and her husband are learning as, “We take our nourishment where we can.”
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Set at the end of December, “Ajar” offers an image of a door that may be “opening or closing, / poised to shut in or set free.” The third-person narrator notes how
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                        … A new year
                        waits like a two-headed
god hovering undecided
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which way to turn, like words
that would change everything
yet hang unsaid …
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In a dynamic world, nothing is as fixed and clear as we might wish it.
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                        … We think we know
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                        what we are. A river
                        caught by a camera will never
                        be that river again …
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The poet leads us through her husband’s successful bout with cancer, through eye-opening travels to Russia, Kenya and Thailand, and arrives at “East”:
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                        I keep going east,
                        pulled toward the place
                        where morning springs,
                        where the sun sleeps at night.
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The journey proceeds from place to place and through time, “past ancient monuments / to ego and engineering,” and past China’s Great Wall – a wonder of the world that nevertheless could not resist the world’s intrusions. Seeking wisdom, the narrator wants “to follow the sun back / and back, all the way / to its mother’s womb, bow / to her in gratitude for light // and warmth…” She longs to ask this mother, “why stars and species // must be born to die,” and why nothing “travels faster than light / but thought,” and “what happened / before time began.”
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Many poets have tackled important subjects, and some have been able to do so while balancing the extremes of experience with the quotidian, but few have the ability to illuminate the profound with such concision, and through such original and natural-sounding language. Meyers accomplishes this and more in The Way Back. The poems resonate long after the book is closed.
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David P. Kozinski’s first full-length book of poems, Tripping Over Memorial Day (Kelsay Books) was published in January. He won the Delaware Literary Connection’s 2015 spring poetry contest and the Seventh Annual Dogfish Head Poetry Prize, which included publication of his chapbook, Loopholes. Publications include Apiary, Cheat River Review, Philadelphia Stories, Rasputin.