WORD DANCING is a rich and opulent anthology of the poet's work. The collages are a welcome, sophisticated addition: diverse elements juxtaposed in a fresh and sagacious way urge the viewer to imagine and to heal. Collages give another glimpse into the poet's mind which is always a treat. This review will discuss only the newer poems, but the reader will also find a solid selection of poetry from February Voices (1994), Cadences (1996), and Tangerine Dance (1999).
I'll begin with my favorite poem, "Looking Homeward," a gentle title for a power-driven reflection. Here are the third and fourth stanzas:
If I were queen again
I would declare it a cardinal sin
requiring banishment from this earthly plane
to compromise the childhood of any living thing
When I am queen again
it will be as it was
as the Mother decreed 7,000 years ago
the lion shall lie down with the lamb
and the fox with the hen
when I am queen again,
all will be well forever
Any poet has the power of the "queen" if the poet chooses to exercise that power. Alas, few do.
"Without A Map" tells us we can't go back to the past, but none the less, we must:
Sometimes you undertake long journeys
without a map, without a calendar,
without even a clock
because you know it's time
Family dynamics are often a terrifying mystery, but "You're hoping for a chance to replay the tape...."
And the trunk, wonderful and magical,
brimming with memories and treasures,
surrounded by leather-bound Scriptures
and other cautionary tales
remains locked and in waiting
until you remove the carpet and insert the key
and bring possibility alive again
WORD DANCING is filled with superb tribute poems. "Swing Dance," a poem the poet often reads with warm emotion, recalls the mother: both at her grave service and in her exciting World War II era young life. "Pocahontas" epitaphs the extraordinary life of that princess caught between two civilizations. "Passing Through Her Bedroom" is a heart-wrenching observation of a homeless girl. The first and last stanzas do a poignant balancing focus:
Hiking boots her only pillow
she sleeps on the harsh sidewalk
near my front steps
Am I the only one who shuts down
the cell phone and walks softly
when passing through her bedroom?
There are two delightful "Watch it, Baby. You've gone too far!" poems. "Five Minute Warning" finds the lady empowered when she sets fire to her errant gentleman friend's fancy wardrobe in his new Pontiac truck with "an eight-inch, hand-painted fireplace match from Pottery Barn."
"Lazy Susan" isn't so lazy after she sees her man take off with another dame. That poem concludes:
I'll have a kitchen blade
in my hand when you come back
for more cash, the way you do
And then we'll talk
The "New Poem" section finishes with two essential statements of civilized behavior. "Stop the Loss" of war, especially the female soldiers, is an ardent plea; so essential to the fabric of human decency, yet mostly ignored. This is the resolution of one anecdote:
Stateside called Germany and MASH in Iraq,
see how she's doing, she made it, come see.
one day she remembered who she was,
remembered the man who never left her side.
by the date of the wedding, she was walking with a cane.
she kept both legs and her skull was intact.
a hard-fought, hard-won bittersweet ending.
The final poem, "About That Woman," chronicles a woman's proud and enduring walk through history:
...works construction, waits on tables,
lives on scraps, builds a nation
with her blood and sweat, survives rape,
nurtures children through it all,
forgives her captors, survives the death of hope,
century after century for 5,000 years.
Causes Jeanne Powell Supports
Union of Concerned Scientists, VVAW (Vietnam Veterans Against War), Doctors Without Borders, Waterkeeper Alliance, PSR (Physicians for Social Responsibility...