Tuesday, June 28, 2011
Review of THE WHITE CYPRESS, by Judith Skillman, Cervena Barva Press, PO Box 440357, W. Somerville, MA 02144-3222, book store, www.thelostbookshelf.com, 70 pages, $15, 2011
Review by Barbara Bialick
In THE WHITE CYPRESS, Judith Skillman places imagery and symbolism in dissonant layers of nature, mythology, and personal history, to create penetrating parfaits. Each poem asks the reader to interpret it with care. However, by the end of the book, there’s no one clear theme that binds them all together except the poet’s voice of experience and irony.
Consider the poem, “Parrot-Eyed.” For one thing, “parrot-eyed” sounds like the word paradise, and fits in with the idea of lost friendship. “How long have I looked for you/askance, half of me lost,/half found…/twinned—young Bluebloods…/a perfect swoon/…If heaven exists, will you be there/wearing the complexion I lost,/your finger-roots entwined in hers/…as our parents go about/the business of abandonment.”
Now that’s a lot of ideas in one small poem.
She’s well aware of nature’s cycles and textures. For example, in “August Again” she writes “And the snapdragon shrivels,/the peanut plant wears its jaunty hat…/turning the yard/into a foreign land….she wants to grow old,/to become more vacant/than the heat/and look back/on her life/as if it were/a faraway thunderhead.”
I especially like the phrase “a foreign land” wrought by the cycles of nature.
Judith Skillman, who is a writer, editor and educator from Kennydale, Washington, is the author of 13 full-length books of poetry. Her collection HEAT LIGHTENING: NEW AND SELECTED POEMS 1986-2005 was published by Silverfish Review Press. She received an award from the Academy of American Poets for STORM, Blue Begonia Press, 1998. She has an M.A. in English Literature from the University of Maryland and has done graduate work at the University of Washington. She has published in well-known journals, and has been a Writer-in-Residence at the Centrum Foundation in Port Townsend, Washington.