Friday, November 13, 2015

Swimming The Hellespont Selected Poems: 1971-2001 Jesse Mavro Diamond

Swimming The Hellespont
Selected Poems: 1971-2001
Jesse Mavro Diamond
© 2015 Jesse Mavro Diamond
Wilderness House Press
Littleton, MA
ISBN  978-1-329-31315-6
Sofbound, $15.95, 71pages

Review by Zvi A. Sesling

On the back cover of Jesse Mavro Diamond’s book Judson Evans writes, “Mavro Diamond forges a voice from crucial elements of Jewish, lesbian, and feminist identity.”

Indeed all these elements are in Ms. Mavro Diamond’s illuminating collection of poetry which is personal and intimate, presenting poetry which is not often covered in mainstream poetics and brings to mind the work of Marilyn Hacker.

Here is a poem which presents a feminist perspective of body:

The Beautiful Mystery

may be a disappointment to bra gents
who look or perfection in balanced flesh
and corset men who search for symmetry.
Sisters know human hips were made to extend
for arms whose hands reach, trembling, for security
that comes from witnessing another’s chest
imperfect as her own.
Let’s leave disillusionment to the lingerie lads:
a woman’s body remains perfectly gorgeous
because it is.

Perfection does exist—
In imperfection move the beautiful mystery.

Now follow that with a poem that reflects with her Jewish heritage and a past in which being Jewish was always safe:

Ode to a Lute
In April, at the bottom of the stairs, we found a stringless lute.
I saw it first, you claimed. Besides, you joke, you’re Sephardic,
a horse thief, whereas I, Russian, Ashkenazic, am no criminal.
Take the lute, I said, and take this story, too:
If a person steals a horse, she may be on the run
from worse thieves, they may be chasing her
out of her own country. Imagine she has no alternative
but to grab the first horse she sees, jump on it
and gallop hundreds of miles into a strange land,
changing her name s she rides, covering her face with a rag
even at night, so the moonlight will not reveal
her true identity.  Understand? I asked.
But you had fallen asleep in my lap, cradling the lute.
There are the missing strings, I whisper.

This is a riff on biblical Talmudic wisdom and teaching, yet it is in its way a beautiful mystery of its own, while Ode to a Lute 2 is a different tale with a moral of a different sadness.

Swimming the Hellespont is a 30 year odyssey for Jesse Mavro Diamond,  In it she packs 31 of her best poems, including the title poem, which travels from the past at the Nazi concentration camp at Dachau to a hopeful future which she sees on the horizon.

Whether the reader is female or male, Jewish or non-Jewish, LGBT or straight there is something for each reader to absorb and cherish. In other words it is a book to keep and reread when you want to remember the exigency of the weight of societal reality.

Zvi A. Sesling
Author, King of the Jungle and  Across Stones of Bad Dreams
Editor, Muddy River Poetry Review
Publisher, Muddy River Books

Editor, Bagel Bards Anthologies 7 & 8

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