As I tell the publicists who contact me about books they are flogging, I don't “review” books, I write about a few of them I like. Not many more than half a dozen a year.
The reason for so few is that I already spend the greater portion of my days reading, researching, thinking and writing about getting old. I need some time for my other interests and a great deal of that is reading for personal pleasure.
Not that I don't enjoy what I do for this blog but it is not my entire life.
A lot of the time I choose which books to tell you about from what I've been reading on my own. Other times they fall into my lap and today's came from Dan Peters who is the publisher at Blue Begonia Press in Washington state.
He emailed to tell me about this book at the instigation of his father Doug Peters who, writes Dan, is a “HUGE fan” of Time Goes By and often mentions the poetry featured here.
Dan tells me that she published this, her [so far] only book of poetry, in her mid-eighties, 2012:
”She's a trained art historian, has a masters degree in architecture from Harvard, but because of generational gender traditions was never employed as an architect.
“She raised a family and supported her husband, also a Harvard trained architect. She returned to poetry only recently, in her late 70's and early 80's and came to our attention through the former state poet laureate.”
This is the title poem, Tall Woman Looking:
I stand at a window looking across the grass
to the house where I lived as a child
and I see that it matches my memory exactly -
brown shingled siding, blue hydrangeas,
and in the yard an old birch tree hammered
by a woodpecker every April.
Then the clack-clack of my father's typing,
a hiss of steam from my mother's iron – I hear them,
and I see in his room upstairs my brother,
bent over an airplane kit of tissue and balsa.
How heedlessly, how blithely I fled those safe
and quiet waters! Now when I think of that
skinny, long-legged, brown-eyed girl,
of the happy life she led there,
the irreplaceable years of hopscotch,
Sunday night waffles, new skates for Christmas,
my heart stakes its claim. I shall mine
that streambed as long as I live.
It is easy to tell you the kind of novels I like – I can rattle them off without effort. Not so with poetry the language of which, it seems to me, is generally so different from prose it might not be English.
This, Coda, is another from Trogdon's book that I particularly like - something about how the language weaves together:
Now I am beginning to say goodbye,
now on the very last May evening.
My kimono is the color of mist.
But the fragrance of lilacs from the garden
comes to me in the dusk, and I am in no
hurry to go. Perhaps the rose grosbeaks
will come to the olive trees tomorrow.
Perhaps the hives will be heavy at harvest,
perhaps one day we will turn to each other
and begin at last to speak of love.
Here is Ms. Trogdon herself reading Strange How You Stay at the launch party for her book:
And, you can purchase “Tall Woman Looking” at the Blue Begonia Press website.
At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Janet Thompson: Partying Hearty