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Wednesday, May 25, 2005


Sometimes the most exciting new poetry I come across is right in my own neighborhood. One of the most enjoyable readings I’ve attended featured Victor Schnickelfritz—at the Poetry Center, right here in Sacramento. He is an engaging reader, speaker, and performer, as one might imagine after reading his postings here at TGAP.

Another local pleasure is a new book by Rose Black, titled CLEARING (Moorpark Press, 2005). Without reservation, it is the book I’ve had the most fun reading in quite some time. Rose lives down the road in Oakland, and writes poems that draw us in through careful understatement, then turn quickly on us—like the bull, and the father, in this poem.


We could do this. My brother and I could climb the fence into
Detweiler’s field and know what to watch for. Watch out for
Detweiler’s bull, Dad would say, and we would, our hearts

To go to Wolf Run, you would take the shortcut through Det-
weiler’s field. Run fast over deep-rooted bunchgrass, past
Black Angus cows, chewing and staring, heads raised.

The bull could appear any moment, back arched and hair
erect, galloping hard, eyeballs jutting. Then feet horning the
ground. He could appear from beyond the ridge or up from
the creek below. Or from nowhere, and we would be ready.

We knew what to do. Back away slowly. Or head for a tree
and dodge him, his long body taking more time to twist round
than ours. Soon he’d quit, exhausted.

In this wide space, we were alive with options. When we went
back to town, to the narrow walls of home, the dining room,
the squared side of table, we had no instruction, no skills. He
would leap across our plates, charge us, and all we could do
was stay still, so still we disappeared.

Rose takes us by surprise because her voice is believable. There is no posturing or pretension. And the reader is more than willing to take big leaps with her. Mutual friend Moira Magneson describes Rose’s poems as a canoe ride on a quiet lake, interrupted by a sudden, sometimes deadly, squall.

In addition to a collection of fresh, energetic poems, CLEARING is also an attractive book. Mine is number 92 of 300 copies. The cover photo shows Rose as a young girl—twelve or thirteen years old—standing in the snowy woods in a long wool coat, holding a hatchet in her gloved, right hand. Her eyes look straight into the camera, her lips turned up in their corners—into a subtle smile.

Here's one more poem from CLEARING.


Once there was
before Uncle Morris did the wrong
and crazy things

before Uncle Victor signed the papers

when Morris was a wild man
a man who got too angry man
a man who liked sex man
a liked sex too much man
wild fast-crowd man

Once there was
before the visits
fifty years of visits on the white
wooden bench

before they explained
how he didn’t have his helmet
how he marched in the sun
crazy, how sun made him crazy
(something sexual on the side)

Uncle Victor signed the papers
there wasn’t any choice

Once there was
before the visits
fifty years of visits on the white
wooden bench

before the dirty white t-shirt man
eyes looking sideways man
staring man who groaned man

marched without his helmet man
man shell, shocked man
shell in the sun man
something sexual on the side man
sun damaged brain man

before Uncle Victor signed the papers


David Koehn said...

I particularly like the Uncle Morris poem...I have an affection for these types of turnings and twistings...nonsense that iss not only sense but has an emotional core.

Thank you Rose (via Shawn)

7:15 PM  
jenni said...

Yea, I like the Uncle Morris one too. Thanks for the intro to a new poet (for me at least). I'll be looking up more work.

9:37 AM  
Anonymous said...

I've known and admired Rose Black's work for several years now. Clearing is a wonderful book, a treasure, really. Margaret Kaufman

12:42 PM  

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