It is always an honor to be asked to write an introduction, especially by someone whose creative work, clarity, and commitment to social justice one respects and admires. Here is my into to Judith Tannenbaum's new collection of poems: Carve This Body into Your Home.
Living in a noisy world, surrounded by the clamor of information, data, opinions, advertising, bullet points and talking points, it is easy to forget the power of a single human voice. We have so many words now, and they seem to mean less and less. Reading Judith Tannenbaum’s Carve this Body into Home, I am reminded what words are and what words do.
In Judith’s poems words illuminate our condition, point toward the mysterious and the real, name sufferings, say what is true. Rooted in the language of the body--spine, small of the back, throat, chest, toe, heel and the language of the earth--rock, cove, bishop pine, the creeks and trees of Mendocino County, Judith Tannenbaum’s language is ordinary, and yet it takes us extraordinary places, often to the edges where the inner and outer meet--the boundaries of skin and shoreline, the doorways and entryways that we almost don’t see.
Judith’s poetry is a poetry of places and spaces, interior corridors and real landscapes. Alert to the way things are not what they seem, the way “anything can happen, but mostly it doesn’t”, there is room for the intimate and the immense, the way that in sleep “we’ll be shaped by chaos/connection./And tomorrow wake into what night and the rain,/ our words and our wonder, have made of the world and of us.”
Standing at the edge, walking with questions, talking over dinner with family, waiting by the open door, resting on the ground, breathing in the light and the dark, these poems become prayers--at times hesitant, other times fierce with yearning and ache and appreciation.“Supplication on Unsteady Ground” begins, “The ground she stands on will always be rocky:...”As the poem continues, the poet prays outside, knees reaching in rich soil. “O steady/my stride over uneven ground, teach me to swivel to sway.
Judith’s fidelity to her experience, her tender detachment and her precise observation gives these laments and praise songs their strength, their shape and power so that they become a balm, a gift to us, a present made (constructed) from silence and language and courage.
The Time It Takes
Her hands cup the white bowl,
Porcelain filled with petals,
Rose scent and lavender color.
She gives the time it takes to watch
Those petal purple the water they float in.
Blue, indigo, violet.
The word "unfolding."
Which the world does
When you add time.
The breeze lifts the curtain behind her.
Sun falls through that gauze, cases
Leaf shapes on the wood floor.
The smell of redwood, the smell of pine.
Her shoulder warmed by the sun.
That warmth also steeping
Through flesh and frsckles, bone and below.
Now her belly is warm
And her thigh covered with shadows.
The bowl still in her hands.
Mid-summer, late afternoon.
The sun disappearing.
Blue, indigo, violet,
And then the black of night.
About J. Ruth
Causes J. Ruth Gendler Supports
Poets in the Schools
River of Words
Friends of the Earth
Doctors Withour Borders