(Under "Laurel's Bookshelf")
The Bag of Broken Glass
Poems by Yerra Sugarman
The Sheep Meadow Press
P.O. Box 1345, Riverdale NY 10471
Yerra Sugarman is an award-winning poet whose work has been featured in numerous journals and publications. Her work here is reminiscent of an Old Testament psalmist, giving voice to the dark peripheries and wounds of life with lyrical grace and quiet elegance. Through skillful poetic forms and simple words, she creates powerful moments in time. Whether inhabiting the ancient past, detailing a troubling presence, or looking to an unknown future, she speaks with a universal voice.
"Through the Portholes of the Eyes" expresses eloquently the grief and fear of watching her dying mother prepare for the end of life:
But I could no more unclench
my stare from her being
than untangle my fear
that in dying
she was also forgetting
In "My Bag of Broken Glass" the poet contemplates Poland of 1939 and Canada in 1978. These two excerpts from that poem reflect the stunning clarity and beauty of Sugarman's memories of fear and death in Poland, love and survival in Canada:
Beneath the blood bitter moments,
are there only blowing voids or brittle essentials?
Words fall like long hairs on her mind's floor.
Images get caught in memory's teeth.
Sugarman entwines an individual sorrow with the universal in "Journal: Rai'ut Coma Ward, Tel Aviv-Yaffo, July 2003." Her mother's youngest sister languishes there in an unconscious state:
To connect the body's pain
with the pain of the body's world
like the hand's double,
its shadow on a leaf
of paper in this coma room's caul of light --
But you don't wonder who tenders
the bitter or who measures
the weeping and the ravaged. History bears you
in its unconsummated peace
where it always stops
and you retreat
from the world not knowing
your history or yourself.
In "Sacred are the Broken" the poet memorializes the legacy of Ruth Apteker, a half-Jewish, half-German woman whose greatest accomplishments and possessions were resurrected from a dumpster:
The body can die alone on an uptown stoop,
seeking refuge from its bug-filled studio.
And the damned, duplicitous mist
will weave a pall from its once soft cloak.
You see how we're born:
solitary, dying, holy, broken.
And sacred are the broken, the inconstant,
the distracted genius, curmudgeon, refugee,
and the one who would offer an only pair of good shoes to a victim of fire.
Critics have described the poetry in this book as invaluable, extraordinary, eloquent, luminous and masterful. Such praise is understatement. The Bag of Broken Glass has my highest recommendation.