YGDRASIL: A Journal of the Poetic Arts

July 2007

VOL XV, Issue 7, Number 171

Editor: Klaus J. Gerken

Production Editor: Heather Ferguson

European Editor: Mois Benarroch

Contributing Editors: Michael Collings; Jack R. Wesdorp; Oswald Le Winter

Previous Associate Editors: Igal Koshevoy; Evan Light; Pedro Sena

ISSN 1480-6401



A forum on Lynn Strongin's



   Churchyard Angel by David Greer 


   Lynn Strongin on the Issue.


   Part One: Poems: "Land of Marrow"

   This Sweet World
   In Bourbon Light
   In the City, "Despair"
   Irony		Orion
   The Dark Embroiderer
   Wheeling Home over Mirrors
   The Christmas toy-soldier of carnelian wood
   Two lights at the end of Surgery tunnel
   All the children on board are nubbins
   This Marl World
   Thin Black Petticoats
   As If
   (Coda) Painswick & Twillingate

   Part Two: Commentary

   Hugh Fox "The Marrow Land" 
   Suchoon Mo "A Children's Prison"
   Cassandra Robison "Uncaged of Pain"
   Jordan Smith "Connections between Personal History & History of the Modern World'
   Bob McNamara  "One of the More Striking Religious Poets Today"
   Hugh Fox "Lynn Strongin: The World of Classical Poetry"
   Suchoon Mo "Lynn Strongin & The Bering Strait of Imagination"
   Anonymous review of The Sorrow Psalms: A Book of Twentieth Century Elegy in "American Poet"


   Lynn Strongin's forthcoming books.


When Klaus Gerken invited me to compile a forum of poems and criticism on my 
work, The Sorrow Psalms: A Book of Twentieth Century Elegy had recently been 
published. Our own mother was near the end of her life. An Irish friend who 
had had the vivid tongue of that land had just died,  a contemporary of 
mine-although we came of age on opposite sides of the Atlantic. We had 
separate trials "And to think there are people to whom nothing happens." 

Marrow is a word that has haunted and followed me like a footprint from the 
early thirties to my late sixties. I used it first in New Mexico where, moved 
by desert autumn, I wrote "First Aspen" (for a young woman painter, Alexandra.) 
	Nervous, earthly woman, you are reaching now
	To the marrow of my bone.	

		p. 321 Rising Tides: 20 Century American Women Poets, edited 
by Laura Chester and Sharon Barba," Washington Square Press", July 1973)

As the painter was my muse then, so the Irishwoman was to be in another 
country later, in Canada. What follows is a selection from "The Marrow Land." 

Thanks to Klaus Gerken for offering me a forum on my work, to David Greer for his photograph "Churchyard Angel," Cassandra Robison for her review of Dovey & Me, Suchoon Mo for invaluable insights, and to Hugh Fox, ever sharp-eyed.


Down they went into the waters for the poor blunt-headed silver (--Mary Oliver, "Cormorants" Thirst) (Marie) 1933 Dublin, Ireland--2007, Victoria B. C.
Copyright Lynn Strongin June 2007

Hugh Fox introductory note to
The Marrow Land
I think it sounds like it's right out of the 19th century. Or maybe Ezra Poundish. It's like Jane Eyre and Pride and Prejudice...captures the Anglo-Irish past like nothing else I've ever read. It's the past I don't want to EVER see destroyed, sunrise tea and smoking like a dragon, bright Wedgwood blue lights, empty streets, Irish cloaks. . ..
This Sweet World ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ you've left behind Bedlam asylum the ironlight: Christ Smart & his cat Geoffrey Jubilo Jesu Always an Ishmael: Train-spotter hanging over iron rails above the Liffey. Are they transporting Coal or Metal Bricks or Lumber? Potash? Portage: rain in your face collar up smoking. You've left the ancient Mercedes parked in its wood stall behind your early century building. Whoever would have thought you'd go down like a ton of coal the week before Christmas? Enough to light all the coal in China. Drinking waters of the poor born in Ireland industrial landscape near the shipyards. "Fig & Thistle" the Pub in town: I hear things with your ears I see wooden metal-reinforced hoops first weeks of the new year rolling by the Thames a lighterboy as I ring up your redheaded granddaughter thought to be a beauty when born clearing out your place her voice sounds like your own. Smoking & drinking gin wearing cloaks cardigans one arm lame: the rusty backbone of the great British Trains flashes past which swept you into the countryside name placards hung round the necks of all six children but you returned to London, the Blitz. It came to God to invent time. After you lost both breasts to cancer one arm you swung along, like a baseball bat, you could be seen in the streets of Victoria a gaggle of children in tow one redheaded girl and three small boys fetching them a dark counterpoint Irish theme, ecru lace on winters at St Michael's School taking them swimming escort whose smile launched a thousand ships. II This sweet world you have rubbed off like rust you have carried with you in bone marrow: Landscape of blood & iron: from the beginning And now my road to you has been permanently obscured by snow blowing like salt white chips from silver steel hacksaw whirls in circular directions: Waters lathing laving the shores of Ireland the river (where your ashes will be scattered) & lighterboys mudlarks of stove-pipe elbow-bend Thames.

In Bourbon Light ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Ulster, Scotch, I make a small corner with my books imagining the Blitz in London Lantern hewn of wood and translucent oxhorn the elohim of existence a spiritual Jew, you wore a Jewish star from me & would only have gone to Germany to make a pilgrimage: Snow lying in swatches like winding cloth undone on stones, seacliffs. Rucksack words like train's freight: stacked, strapped, chainmail, link-knit gray-silver air: the Barrens: faggots of wood to be burned in the darkest night. In the Train Depot "Wait" of the City, "Hang On."
In the city, "Despair" ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ you wait lips mute but on the curl of bursting into iron, irony with your strong right hand unlocking from a fluid-lighter, flame.
Irony Orion ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ winter star ignites overhead above the splintered dollhouses where we learned to dream over the big glass Mason jar covered with waxpaper pinpricked so that bugs could breathe; under the knee of our parents' desk where we created a world with khaki blanket hung in front of it, a torch inside to flash on print. I double spread the sheet The Story of an English Village your first gift to me when you said, "I cannot return your gifts," the same day you said "I'm sure your heart is very warm" with those drawn out British vowels so Southern: that accent stretching way far back from Dublin to London taking my hands in your one hand which could move. Pale tints of English countryside showing the growth of an English village from Medieval town with pump to urban congestion. Township pushing up resembled a tumor: watched from the same viewpoint every hundred years. Castle Church Market Cross: the houses on the right page survive down centuries while interiors alter, social patterns change. Remarkably untouched by event the advent of modern apart from Civil War 1642. A civil war of the heart broke out from your side of the street to mine soldierly scholarly: mornings the weeks in Hell reminiscent of World War II London from my side of the Atlantic, Lake Champlain. Neither of us belonged in the country we found ourselves in. First published in London, Basingstoke you had associations in Dublin & accusations. * History of a life embroidered with paints in one letter, "L" for "lame" "Love" "Lost" illuminated Anglo-Saxon texts merged, married Freesia I send when you die, you loved the smell of them. When your son was killed by "Angel Dust" you went to hell & half way back. Hell wasn't the word. You had a hole in your body you filled the house with freesia. Only years before, you'd rolled back the rug to swing to "When the Boys Come Home Again." "Shall we keep them monotone?" asks the florist. "Yes," I say knowing you abhorred monotone but for this occasion- I open to a Tudor town rising from hill to castle hillock from marrowbone. Barley. Lamb broth on the stove. Albion A smile which lit one thousand bulbs of sun that glorious child, Fynn left behind: a cry which was the child's opened mouth scream Biggles & Noddy are dead. Big Ears is done. We struggle in this lightless world to live: to forgive.
The Dark Embroiderer ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ blood on her finger knows she has come to the first day of Forever. What hack-up, sweet soul: birds on the limb. Clouds part to reveal the gash of winter: gold tea & weak white wine a mirrory incision: Winter is incisive: the wound widening: Fast-freeze the frame: On a medieval hill in Provence from which the embroiderer is watching all enchantments: feasts fights festivals going on below; Last October's maple leaves, first frail thorns of snow: Time which is our agony bears down: they lifted my body, a blown leaf till I envisioned Saint Jude's: the disastrous illnesses of children: the tubercular, amputees, the lame. The dark embroiderer puts all into her hoop: the Franco-Prussian war, the freeze & rain. She rewinds silks on spools: Then, she counts down Walks determinedly toward the cannon-light on the horizon Shaft is clean for weapon the weapon fits in wound: So wildfox in its den: (Albrecht Durer's) Vermeer's letters within letters forever a young woman, lover in anguish of yearning, reflected in oval mirror fame having put in a cameo experience in those pinpoint towns out from which flows oblivion white velvet: then bravely gone down under: irrevocably recognizing its own.
Wheeling Home Over Mirrors ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Catching flowers at the kiosk, Switching into stained-glass stockings back home A rice planting day in Japan The paddies gleam In rain clean as a whistle. The shoeshine boy blows thru his whistles on a blade of grass. A tree tall as life itself Which a dog bangs into rises. Weather dark as a shoeshine box back home The boy of weather kneeling.
The Christmas toy-soldier of carnelian wood ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ (a color you rarely wore) still hangs on the tree by golden thread The last message is in the e-mail "It would be lovely to meet for a bowl of Chinese soup" and the landlady who walked Turkey Head with you every day weeps uncontrollably over the phone after a fit of volubility: I saw two souls at the white heat, you two striding: vowels, syllables rolled iron hoops into the Thames slid, spilled down under icy water.
Two lights at the end of Surgery Tunnel ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ were your grandson's visit & the plush Doulton lambkin from me: You'd kissed him & hugged him all that afternoon before surgery Two radiances, revolving like white ink blurred to fur on a blotter morphed into a train coming toward you 100 m.p.h. Tres Grand Vitesse Made blind you could only communicate by monosyllables written on a piece of cardboard with your good hand: you fell like a ton of bricks, crumbled like a house on fire, left us, minute-by-minute, second-by-second over four weeks, pile of rubble & hymns, roses & blood-iron at dawn.
All the children on board are nubbins ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ starving outstretched hands like yours Carol's, Theresa's, Sean's: Edward's when shipped "to the country" to be out of London. Faces pressed to streaming train window panes flowing like fire thru fields you learned one of the hundred meanings of rain then, eldest, Catholic-schooled, aged nine going on a hundred. English Villages pubs & train-spotting, shoulder bag flung over right arm, the moving one.
This Marl World ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ you have left Jubilo Jesu Adieu Waters of the poor dark silver rising, "We are never wise about ourselves.". And to think there are people who go thru life to whom things never happen.

Thin Black Petticoats ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ I cannot make the funeral. You dreaded the wheelchair pitching forward in slant rain. Anglo-Saxon scaffolding. Waters for the poor. Marrow land above Yarrows Boat Yard which has laid off many men. A narrow lot the funeral home nailed into darkness up a hill at a cold Junction. The Barrows. McCall's. January rain. You were a bit of a funeral tourist the death flea having bitten your ear when you heard the kids whispering in the bushes of the Catholic church, hearts racing. Father O'Malley Sister Pauline, will she fly over from Cardiff to whom you were speaking over the phone when lamb broth spilled over the burners, a pot-boiler. "She kicked it." "He got it in the Jewels." Still will the bell shine. Scaffolding down by Yarrows yard the thin streets of our Victorian town tapering. Have I not been wandering Anglo-Irish countryside for centuries? Ragged thorns ashen, shine I'll not be at the funeral. I will be wearing a thin black petticoat under my coat as Doll would have done.
As if ~~~~~ those thin, rickety rattan tables balanced in the back of the truck those wicker baskets pages of your life that I could turn Read & re-read them Committing them to memory-the bombed streets of the Blitz, your seven-year old smile, the milkman delivering over rubble-- Storing them in my black box for lifelong recitation-as if they were burned like litho plates, in my brain I shield my eyes to sun to salt tears that burn my cheek on the way home. I will code them pages of wicker, of leather, wood & metal computer: Roped in the van that will carry away the tomes of your life To the local dump, Or the Sally Ann depending upon your daughter's arrangement. Your final e-mails lost unless someone knew the password. * As if my mother had not been married in a brown satin gown, I imagine happiness as I wheel home A cloud a bloom of white opens Rising diaphanous as a girl's first kiss, or coming The cloud stores rain. Grief Blossoms as I turn the latch-key. As if I had not kissed my Forever Family goodbye Hospital-childhood having changed the home line for me. As if you had not died: the bird in the cage is singing in the painting: The bird that brushes my face is not charcoal & soot, ebon brushstrokes-- With dust-brown iron-red feathers But the bird has a beating heart carrying a glass vial with the miniature house Your childhood: Its rooms of wood brown & Quaker gray: As if we were not hauling up anchor spinning on the water. Your dark Irish whiskey-voice passions over the sunny day: The last lightbulb you turned off-a page As if you had not gone over the hill Ireland's map, & stone, soot & sea But simply crossed the road, heart racing, cheeks flushed After sunlit tea to morning mercy & glory.
Coda ~~~~ Painswick & Twillingate (Gunners) ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Are across the seas Crenellated. Here, England after having won the war. Lost How would it ribbon? Barbed wire, flaking, curled against sky. Rust runnels thru clouds As though A faucet had run thru porcelain Carving it. Maid of honor heaven the color of gooseberry Follows the bride of war: Wainscoting crumbling. Boldface, clouds tiny print elegant as boots. Windows italicize decay. The bride has gathered up her cracked taffetas all silver gray she's gone away to a riper marriage. Gunners the color of clay Wait for another war another day.
The Marrow Land: The Marrow Land is an elegy /eulogy of a journalist who died in Victoria, B.C. in January of this year. Originally from Dublin (born there in 1933), Culleton was a friend of Strongin's: the whole poem is one vast lamentation on Culleton's death. The Irish writer survived the London Blitz and lived in Canada since until her death very much a twentieth century person and The Marrow Land is filled with references to twentieth-century happenings; but under all the twentieth-century noise, Strongin gets back to an essential human being who carries the past in her everywhere she goes, and makes her whole life sound so folkloric, so Anglo-Irish: "that accent stretching from Dublin to London/taking my hands in your one hand/which could move ./ /Pale tints of English countryside/showing the growth of an English village from Medieval/to urban congestion." Sometimes you feel you're reading a poetic version of Jane Eyre's life in modern times: "All my work is a reincarnation of an old beach-comber.exiled one)/in Irish cloaks, feeling slightly Quasi-Modoish: even Rembrandt's Smock // I look to rafts roof quillery sky./ God's eye: Love strobing earth & heave. // The whiskey-tined / landscapes on my desk are fast-fading." She calls Culleton "Anam Cara," Gaelic for "Dear One," and suddenly you're back in ancient Ireland again, beautifully evoked, like Pound in his Cantos evoking the landscapes/places of antique Europe. At the same time there is a Chinese-Korean slant here (again thinking of Pound's Imagism and Voticism) that sets down image-fragments that force the reader to create his/her own reality out of them: "Sky is a chestnut bowl / tun oil finish // hand turned wood/by an artisan who formerly worked in stained glass // a shard of glass fell/ on the little son's pillow during the Blitz." In terms of Marie Culleton's life we are confronting the death of a child during the Blitz, but in terms of poetic performance, the individual/autobiographical is turned into All-Time/All-History. Strongin is a kind of Pound-Keats herself, pure evocation turned into stained-glass word-windows that turn the reader's daily world into a private metaphysical-medieval chapel. Hugh Fox
January 2007 by Suchoon Mo The obituary has a strong undercurrent of Cummings, Pound and Williams. All are inheritors of Buddhist poetics: rejection of both extreme detachment and extreme subjectivity. It should be kept in kind that it was Pound who made Eliot into what the public thinks what Eliot is. (some Haiku people seem to glorify in some kind of empty tea cup and empty fishing boat) (Suchoon Mo, on The Marrow Land.
Other Commentary
Jim Le Cuyer: Your poetry waterdances for me, words chosen so appropriately that they make me smile. I don't always know what you mean, no, but your tone is so right, such as "Envelope of the world, spilling albino contents, epiphany grain." What exactly that means, I don't know, but it suggests to me that the world is a letter opened in such a way that it spills on to the wood of the table on which it stands, and fills the wood grains with glittering epiphanies, like ground diamonds alight in the sun. What envelope, why albino, why epiphany grain? (I suspect you're using transferred epithets again!) Or the grain, I see, could refer to seeds like wheat or corn, from which might sprout knowledge... epiphanies
The clockwork village has a marvelous format and progression. The connotation is of a noun as adjective "being" or adverb "action". Action in Sanskrit is called "Karma" which is completely mystified by gurus. I think this is a master piece! (Suchoon Mo)
Uncaged of Pain... A Review of Lynn Strongin's chapbook Dovey & Me ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ by Cassandra Robison, published in "Centrifugal Eye," Editor Eve Anthony Hanninen 2007 Lynn Strongin has been student, assistant, colleague, and peer to some of the finest voices in modern and contemporary poetry in America during the past half century. She was protege of a significant group of poets, including Levertov and Duncan. Her graduate student interest in e.e. cummings is evident in her bravery with punctuation and phrasing. Yet in Strongin, perhaps now more than ever before in her work, readers hear a singular voice, eloquent and powerful, fresh and pure in persona, a voice that creates images so delicate and sophisticated they are painful to read and difficult to wrap the mind around. One thinks of Emily Dickinson more than any other poet. And Strongin is like Dickinson in other ways as well. Strongin belongs to a secular school. Strongin's poems are those of a woman-child with astonishing leaps of thought. In Dovey & Me, Dovey is a woman "born at Liverpool" and When she becomes incommunicable, I know how to reach my arms around her old feathered exile beauty battered & beaten to perfection like wind-polished stone. (p. 6, "Born") Together, the speaker and Dovey "boil kelp" because "Roast chicken belongs to / the castle on the hill" ("Winter & Dovey Struggles Home," p. 7). Dovey loves books, "her one earthly passion" and "jewels. /A cabochon/of amethyst" ("Her One Earthly Passion", p. 8) they live like recluses ("an owl-like hermit") in "this hut by the ocean" somewhere in a land of "_unbeatable rains" where they "_lie on the beach at night/as in a sweet potato shell / & hear the fog patch people bump together." One motif weaving through the poems is that of birds and bird feathers: Nobody understands us now: Our tongue Elizabethan. We are known as the old & the young bird-women. The two women speak in their own language, a tone of survival. Strongin writes of bones throughout this chapbook: "the bones war at the threat / as the blood does / at the threat of wrong multiplications" (p. 13), broken bones, Dovey's "_bones are uneven" and I ease her head into the pillow. She grows calm. Shakespeare is what I choose to read her & his rich music fills our bone, We are two souls taking flight from fevers, crafting the violence, the visions, into calm. ("Fever," p. 24) Elegiac in tone, some poems in this tight-fisted collection echo Biblical passages, others Dickinsonian technique: This too will pass, like the wind over the bled grains of green grass blowing on the sand: the fear that she will leave me alone a star to burn like kerosene consuming itself in the hut where we lived together so many decades: No plan: No place to turn. ("And This Too Will Pass," p. 14) Strongin is always looking for God in her poems,: They are as black-purple as currants shining these last poems. Something fine & dark must be coming on. ("They are as black-purple," p. 27) She does not find God; she finds, instead, a resilient inner self that survives the inevitable loss of "Dovey." The speaker says "I am around twelve / I begin writing;" and she continues, "Talent is the bird / even more than Dovey, has her claws in me" ("Talent," p. 26). talent allows the self to float over the wards and to "torch" Dovey on the cold sand beach, scattering the ashes in the sea. It affords her a perspective both unusual and keen; she sees color everywhere, light and darkness. The suffering combined with talent allowed Strongin to survive her prison of physical self and move into the transcendent world of poetry where she finds salvation that is not God, per se, yet it is transcendence: The love the everlasting outlasting love. ("Bonfire," p. 30) In the end, one imagines Dovey as the child-Strongin's imaginary friend. Dovey is a second self, an inner angel, that lifts Strongin and becomes her music: The sun melts like twisted red glass in winter. But we have our radio on to outdistance blackness, a good old transistor. ("Music," p. 19) The "radio" connotes her talent from whence she outruns "blackness." It seems Strongin writes out of that exile of illness and defiance of norm Her color imagery and her motifs of birds, bones, living outside the "norm," stand as metaphors of survival. In their perfect subjectivity lies their universal truth as well. In this collection, the poet writes of how she took refuge in an adopted land in a body which in the end, could be cast off finally when the adult woman survived, brilliant with her poetic gifts, here to bear witness. <>Dovey & Me startles readers who struggle to get their minds around the whole story yet are swept by its gorgeous and often painful imagery that build from first to last poem. Although it is the story of two women, at least on the surface, it speaks of all human fears of loving, losing, and physical illness, and all those truths about being that haunt us all. One cannot find such daring in most contemporary poetry. It's an unusual group of poems, a singular feat, as if Strongin had invented a new form of poetry. Her poems, like Dickinson's in the 19th century, are existential and probe the essential issues. It is an amazing collection of poems, and it will have an impact on the world of American poetry.
This reviewed appeared in New Works Review on-line 2007 Lynn Strongin "The World of Classical Poetry" by Hugh Fox Whenever I start reading Lynn Strongin, I am transported out of myself into what I think of as the Classic Universe of World Poetry. Not just Whitman, Keats, Coleridge, but Fernando Pessoa, Virgil, Rilke, Rimbaud. In the last few years I guess I've just gotten too used to the say-it-as-it-is, almost reportorial work of the Bukowski-Micheline-Winans school: Worn down depressed I struggle in the morning to get out of bed cursed with insomnia You go into Strongin's world as the 'real' world vanishes and everything is converted into elusive, captivating, uplifting images of not a 'dreamscape' world, but an edge-of-consciousness/sub-consciousness world where our edge-of-articulation feelings scramble, almost always on the edge of being seen /felt/ heard: I have known privacy like the nests of stone inside cathedrals: made them mine "Remembering my Grandmother" by A.D. Winans. The Other Side of Broadway: Selected Poems,1965-2000, Presa Press, 2007, p. 66. by keeping odd hours for boon companions creating smaller place within place nest inside nest. Withdrawn in the warmth like the rose to full open * ("Shrift VIII",) "The Glassblower's Hands" in Shrift, Thorp Springs Press, 1975, p.12) Strongin exists in a mind-world made up of primarily of classic art, literature, music, which she takes into herself and transforms into her total, internalized psychological landscape: It is scary the way I am dreaming of flowers obsessed like Van Gogh by the dizzying light of the south.... I tear the book open like a hungry animal his gone. Lights, colors flow in! I lay back my head, dream of olive-greens stretching, of the painter who put the light under the roots into the leaves that autumn morning.... "Van Gogh" from Nightmare of Mouse, Epervier Press,Fort Collins, Colorado, 1977, p.21) When I discovered she is a polio survivor (as I was as a child), I asked her if that wasthe reason for revolving all the poems in her first book, The Dwarf Cycle, around a dwarf. It seems a logical metaphor, n'est pas? Feeling "dwarfed' by a wheel-chair: The dwarf went along. It was a snowy evening. He felt he had been carrying ten-ton rocks on his shoulders all year. (O I'll tow the line.) As was his wont, he was humming a hymna halleluiah - and at the same time readying up for a huge kick in the pants of creation. Ragbag evening. No he was not looking for gold. Not him. What was on his mind grating and grinding like a coffee-grind or one stone ground against another stone till - like the first man - he might strike flame? Call me CRIPPLE and I shall crumple, a balloon the air let out terrible treachery against creation. No, worse. I'll explode, like a huge oil drum And you may catch fire too, namer, in the wild conflagration. The Dwarf's Nocturne -- Placid Evening," in The Dwarf Cycle, Thorp Springs, Press, 1972, p.19) I loved the images / language, "ragbag evening, grinding/like a coffee-grind. Her answer to my question about dwarfing herself came back as one of the most remarkable documents I have ever-ever received, about the creation of an art-bound mind-universe: If I woke within the actual world of my poems, where would I waken? Inverno: it would be winter. I would be like crackingopen a geode: raw crystals brilliantly teal and silver. The brilliant cold would put its signature to everything. Brilliant things are in a category all their own: they dazzle. What the weather? Geography? How would the streets run? In what country? and what century? I would be a Medieval pageboy at the androgynous age of twelve, voice still high as a girl's, limbs strong as a young male's....the village would be layered with strata of vocation: artisans, artists, beggars, doctors plus every every trade and profession in between.... It would of course be a world of Seventeenth Century Dutch Painting... The skies would be saturated teal gray-blues. Water would be ubiquitous in pitchers poured, in ships at sea: in canalsfrozen mercury-silver in winter.... It would be like the convex mirror seen in so many Dutch paintings like The Balanced Scales. A silver-nitrate light slides over and around things, defining them, caressing them.. Rembrandt is prophet depicting faces of his Jews of the Ghetto - who were his Christs. This world looks back to Hieronymous Bosch with his terrors: scenes of the Final Judgement which spare none and ahead to the mercy of Rembrandt of Rotterdam: there is Pieter Brueghel Elder whose scenes of winter skiing capture the sky of eternity..... The Geode would be cracked open, the poem. Its inscape is lit by the hard light of the mind, but perceptible by the senses' vulnerable emotion. Vermeer paints in oils a young woman reading a letter: she gives the letter her full attention, she covets this moment, perhaps the only thing that is her own. catchlight of longing in the Girl with the Pearl Earring takes the breath from the onlooker. So does the Girl Wearing Turban steed in the nearly severe, almost mathematical, light redeemed by love.... Rembrandt, Bosch, Vermeer....you want to just turn off the world, don't you, and keep reading on and on. She sounds like me growing up in the Art Institute in Chicago, not so much drifting into the world of seventeenth century Dutch painting, but more into the world of Monet, Renoir, Van Gogh.... Strongin "tells it as it is" she tells it as it was in the classic arts. I've never encountered anyone more art-engulfed than Strongin. She is not always Dutch-centric, though, but she always is classic Take a poem like "Linens" in Ghost-Grayhounds & Ravensounds: Before company lay in a stock of linen: polish window panes. Put shelf-liners in. Dust mirrors until they're ponds. Water obeys love's laws, or none. White & lime. I've been up since forever before the rooster rose in his red aplomb. In my dream a nameless orphaned doctor narrated requiem in the language of my Russian forebears, little car sounds. Winter's day is traversed slowly wound in fragile ice every step exhilaration & suffering. Here are a few berries for you hand. Now sing in Ukrainian. It's said that wicked people have no songs.) (Privately printed, hors de commerce, 2005, p.10) Russian forebears, fragile ice, singing in Ukrainian. Although she was born and raised in New York city, she sees herself as basically a New Englander, wrote her M.A. thesis on E.E.Cummings at Stanford, lived in New Mexico for eight years and now lives in Victoria, British Columbia.... but it hardly makes a difference where she lives in a surreal world, because her transformative imagination turns everything into all space / all-time. The closest she ever comes to the quotidian is in Dovey & Me published by Solo Press in Carpinteria, California in 2006, but even here her relationship with Dovey is portrayed like, say, reality in a film like Agnes Varde's La Vie Est Belle / Life is Beautiful. Pure transformed on stage / film. Dovey & I fought. She said, "Changing countries is hell" "You need great subjects for great poems" Totally winded I felt my lips turns blue & numb. I wanted to walk the sand. It wasn't a flying evening. The sorrow in her & the guilt she bore for bringing about the change reflected in her tone. I squinted. As a woman, she had a face like Colette. She's look fine in foxfurs, but wouldn't wear such things. All organic now, in black cape & sea shells - she comes. Further & further from the day we met I love her still while the Chinese calligrapher names his longings in the sand. (p.21) Instead of seeing Strongin's transformative powers as negative, I see them as a kind of full-blossoming of an idealization-impulse that has been the core of great art for centuries. She sees herself as having been influenced only obliquely by the school of Denise Levertov and Robert Duncan (e-mail, September 6, 2006), but I see lots of direct influences from both Levertov and Duncan and the whole Black Mountain School. Remember that poem by Levertov, O Taste and See? The world is not with us enough O taste and see the subway Bible poster said, meaning The Lord, meaning if anything all that lives to the imagination's gone, grief, mercy, language, tangerine, weather, to breathe them, bite savor, chew, swallow, transform into our flesh our deaths, crossing the street, plum, quince, living in the orchard and being hungry, and plucking the fruit. An intense, concentrated desire to get inside reality and transform it into art. In one letter to me, Strongin says, "I want to move like a diamond cutter...human strength is the most powerful tool in the world, like flame cutting diamonds: or are we the diamonds?" (September 11, 2006). Are we the diamond cutters or the diamonds themselves, reality-manipulators, or reality itself being manipulated? Observers of The Observed. There's the core, isn't it, the interchangeability between us and the reality that sounds us: The glassblower's hands will be blown off in the cold. Will blow like birds to one loved? I have known privacy like the nests of stone inside cathedrals: made them mine..... ("The Glassblower's Hands", Shrift, Thorp Springs Press, 1975, (Shrift VIII) I find the little quote preceding the poem itself particularly interesting here:
A man will live a lifetime and never be much alone except in his pains. Some privacy in luxury. Solitude is unobtainable at any price. The only true solitude is inward, where a man can cultivate his crop of secrets
(George Garrett, Death of the Fox, Life of Walter Raleigh)
True solitude is inward, where a man can cultivate is crop of secrets. That's the real core of Strongin's creativity, isn't it, taking the world inside herself, turning it into her own private art-world and then bringing us inside with her. I've spent most of my life in the company of poets like A.D. Winans, Harry Smith, Jorge Luis Borges, Dick Thomas, Lenore Smith, Lynne Savitt, Charles Bukowski, and scores of others, but no one has fascinated me more than Lynn Strongin and her transformative powers that take the world "out there" and turn it into painterly reality to be hung forever on the walls of our memories.
On "World Ward II" featured in England's "Transparent Words" ed Jim Bennett The poem is the WW II fought by children, as in contrast to ideologues and politicians. It is a different kind of WW II. So the poem can be used as an unfamiliar voice challenging poetical orthodoxy. I think the editor is perceptive in knowing that. To place "WW II" along with "happy new year" would shake the complacency of many poets.
Suchoon Mo on Sonnets Extase & Extremis Recasting the poem into a sonnet form brings out a new emotional factor, although I cannot say what that factor is. I need to do more study and thinking. Perhaps Daddy was dead, perhaps married. I become a rope for skipping whacking hot stone. I become an oblong rock in sun in rain kissed, kissed by ice pitched for the viola's c string. Mystic Lake lies out the window, a good patient before surgery. The bolt of black window my lullaby. Hormones make us happy doing it over and over. Med carts meanwhile at nightfall rattle by, green phosphorescence approaching sparingly retreating glow & sex. Privacy. But we are darning needles in a jar lightning children we are; lightning bugs. Fireflies. Your poems are becoming truer as the darkness crystallizes into light.
A Prison for Children
Dear Lynn, In all your poems, there is a prison for children. A hell. Then, existential liberation. But liberation is impossible as long as one is tied to self. That is, "I" has to be liberated from its uniqueness. Often, the beginning and the end of your poem are the same. It is about reversibility of the beginning and the end. Past becomes future and future becomes past. And it is tragic that clock needles are locked into a doomed kiss. A shoe box filled with old love letters. A HIV positive boy eating jackets. A girl racing a box car. ..... I am very curious as to how the graduate students may react to the seminar discussing your poems. Are they bounded by rules they have learned, or are they capable of letting themselves go? While poets sing a serenade to the sun and the moon, I am looking down into the deep sky with bottomless depth. While good souls ascent into the sky, I am doomed to fall into the bottomless depth of the sky. Heaven is Hell, and Hell is Heaven. Suchoon Mo e-mail 2007
I go to sleep and wake up in another world I know what Hugh and Cassandra are talking about when they say the poem is difficult to wrap around. I used the word "awakening." I go sleep and wake up in another world. Like a dream. In dream, things just go in a line or a orderly sequence. The space and time order break down. But we talk about dream, dwell on dream, and try to make some sense out of it. Now, since when everything in our life has to make a sense? This is what we inherited from Descartes: the age of rationalism of rational being. Can rationality define itself. I would go along with Bertrand Russell and say "No." Like some Oriental sage of many centuries ago, I have a feeling that you write your poem very fast, like a thunder bolt. The season which symbolizes thunder bolt if, in Sanskrit, "Vajra." The Estoeric Buddhism (Mysticism) is called Vajrayana. I don't know much about Kabala, but I have a feeling that it may have something akin to Vajaayana. Or what people call "intuition" or meta-cognition. Once a reader frees himself from the usual linguistic constraint, then the poem comes through naturally. Cassandra's review is the best I have read so far. Some are hard hitting poems which have woven orgasmic sexuality into spirituality thoroughly. Is there any literary journal of religious spirituality? Should be at least one. Suchoon Mo, an e-mail, 2007
Connections between personal history & the history of the Modern World I made the acquaintance of Lynn Strongin this year, when she wrote me about a book of mine and we began a correspondence. During that time, I have had the opportunity to read a great deal of her recent work, and I have been impressed with both the quality of mind demonstrated there and with the remarkable variety and energy that has produced so much fine work in such a short time. It seems to me (to take the last point first, before I try to describe what seems so individual and valuable in Lynn Strongin's poems.) Lynn Strongin's work is interesting because it is the product of an interesting mind, one that insists on intuiting connections between personal history and the history of the modern world, with all its sufferings and dislocations, between private emotion and empathetic observation. Whatever their contexts-and a great part of the pleasure her poetry offers is its ability to shift context, so that the reader is suddenly aware of vistas of significance in what might have seemed simple or occasional-her poems strike me as devotional; the poet has given herself over to the world, to its beauty and its loss, in hopes of a redemption that perhaps cannot come in any other way than in that act of generosity. And the poems are also formally inventive. Strongin has developed a style where the lines, frequently varied in length, function as much to follow the music of the voice as they do visually and rhetorically. (Although Strongin's work is so much her own that it is not easy to think of obvious influences, her sense of the line, with its musicality and flexibility, reminds me of Robert Duncan's.) I have no doubt at all that Lynn Strongin, should she receive a Fellowship from you, will put your assistance to excellent use. Her project is feasible, and her ability to carry it through is well-supported by the power, originality, and productivity she has demonstrated as a poet. I know what a gift the support of the Foundation can be for a writer (I'm still most grateful for the fellowship I received from you), and in supporting Lynn Strongin I think you have the opportunity to encourage and sustain a poet who is just now in the process of fulfilling the fine promise of her earlier work and of her long dedication to her art. Jordan Smith
"One of the more striking religious voices writing today" Lynn Strongin has produced a significant body of work that is important for its unrelenting intelligence, its clarity and passion. From the start, Strongin has written poems much of whose power is local, poems that move through moments of intensity gathered along an axis of engagement with the things of the world. At first glance what may be most striking about her work is her genius for phrase making: Strongin repeatedly surprises us with figures of speech that are fresh and strong, like no one else's, that move straight to the heart of her matter. There are surprises, too, in the conjunctions her phrases make, and as well in the turns her discourse takes. The poems are often exhilarating to read. But the poems, finally, don't feel disjunctive. Strongin moves fluidly and exactly through different registers of diction, image and abstraction, precisely calibrating her lines to tonal nuances, and in so doing delivers the quick flights and turns of the mind as a poetry of brilliant surfaces. There are many beauties in her work, but these beauties never insist on themselves or promise more than they can deliver. In her early work, Strongin focused on dyadic relationships, producing a number of masterful love poems and poems to caretakers. Here too began the poetic sequences that have been the bulk of her output. Since then, her subjects have ranged widely, and she has again and again shown herself capable of writing intelligent and passionate poems in a free verse as precise and formal as any formal verse. Strongin's engagements with her own pain and suffering have made her one of the more striking religious voices writing today. Bob McNamara, poet
Now you've jettisoned me through your "gateway to the medieval" and I join you in "the life we lift & live between floors / obliged to carry on." The medieval atmosphere imbues the poems/variations, at least for me, with an impatient, restless religiosity. As a reader, I'm more like your scullery maid than the speaker announcing "jublio." I can't seem to escape your "dark imbroglio" and really don't want to, rather want to keep traveling the variations in empathy for your struggle. Brava for your bravery in these lines. Karla" (anonymous comment in CENTRIFUGAL EYE winter 2007 Eve Anthony Hanninen's journal)
(Jane Bowie, born in Scotland, wrote in an e-mail from Italy) . .I've read half the poems and then stopped because I want to wait a moment. They're very strong and I'd like to take them in one at a time. I could "See" so many things I remember from houses I know in the UK. . .I think many people would shut up shop emotionally. (Feb. 27, 2007)
Lynn Strongin's "Bering Strait of Imagination" Strongin's poetry is incomparable and stands by itself. "Bering Strait" is no exception. It begins by referring to Breughel. And doing so creates an introduction in a manner similar to Bach's "Intrata." There are more than one voice. Fitful explosion of discordant sound. There are more than one scenery as an object. Napoleons' Army marching on stomach. The submerged land bridge between Asia and America. A child in a hospital ward while the world is shaking with the global war. And mother will be gone as did the land bridge long ago. And the serenade about vicarious love is being heard. No doubt Strongin's background in music composition helps create the dynamic of her poetry. From the frave quietude of the submerged land bridge to the frail gaze of a child in a nighty which is window thin, the poem is not a single voice narrative which is serial. The poet is transcending the semantic and syntactical boundaries. It is The last line of "Wheeling" is poignant, and brands into memory. It is hard to ignore or forget. Powerful. I so enjoyed the chuckle over the "zero to do with the Lifkinesque..." -- indeed. Li-Young Lee said to me that he wanted to read poets interested in being who dare confront the cold, dark universe in their minds and their work. You do that in a most singular way, moving between the personal and the cosmic at the speed of light. This is a good review of you from Mr. Fox who clearly gets your genius. Love the clever parallel structure in the "zero to do with" and "everything to do with..." lines. Symphonic, and overwhelming. Suchoon Mo.
Lynn Strongin, Editor The Sorrow Psalms: A Book of Twentieth-Century Elegy University of Iowa Press Lynn Strongin's anthology of twentieth-century elegies, featuring poets as different as John Berryman and Billy Collins, argues that elegy balances between praise and mourning. Modernist and contemporary poets have adapted the elegiac form to address the horrors of two world wars, the civil rights movement, Vietnam, and, of course, personal loss. The book is divided into five sections: the impact of death, loss of loved ones, the loss of a child, violent death, and resolution. These poems are emotionally pitched-the feeling of death is in them. Strongin's book charts the progression of elegy, but is also a museum of empathy. The balance between praise and mourning is struck and the resulting catharsis is liberating and connecting in the solidarity of mortality. American poet: The Journal of the Academy of American Poets, Volume 31, Fall 2006
Suchoon Mo: We have hope because the world is imperfect and life is deficient. Light comes through a "crack" in the world. This is really a case of Plato standing on his head. It is about the time somebody had a wisdom to do that. And your poetry has done it.
Polio was a tragedy but left you as the outstanding poet of our generation. A purpose? (Glenna Luschei e-mail to Lynn strongin July 1, 2007) Lynn Strongin contracted childhood polio at the age of 12, July 2, 1951.



Lynn Strongin, (b. NYC, 1939) is the daughter of first-generation Eastern European Jews, 
a doctor and an artist. She was raised in an atmosphere rich in the arts of music, painting, 
literature. Polio at age 12 left her permanently confined to a wheelchair, marking her a 
child of the Twentieth Century. She now has fourteen published books, is a four-time 
Pushcart Prize Nominee, and recently had a poem dealing with the Holocaust published in 
four languages in CIPHER JOURNAL. (It appears in the original English, as well as in French, 
German, and Italian translations.) Her forthcoming books are The Girl With Copper-Colored 
Hair (or "Chernobyl Apples" Conflux Press, California) and Rembrandt's Smock (Plain View 
Press, Austin, Texas.)  The latter is dedicated to the memory of her mother, painter 
Marguerite Strongin, who died May 21, 2007 in Boston.


http://www.new-works.org [for preview of Lynn's forthocming book THE GIRL WITH COPPER-COLORED 

http://www.cipherjournal.com/html/blu.html [for "Erasing The Blue Numbers" in four languages.

This will be in BLOOD TO REMEMBER: American Poets on the Holocaust, updated version edition 
by Charles Ades Fishman, Time Being Books, November 2007

Lynn Strongin's forthcoming books are:

Rembrandt's Smock (Plain View Press)
The Girl with Copper-Colored Hair (Conflux Press)
Crazed by the Sun: Poems of Ectsasy, co-edited with Glenna Luschei

Poems are forthcoming in New Zealand's "Black Mail Press," anthology, in 
England's "Tears in the Fence,' as well as in "Cipher Journal," where one poem 
will be translated into French, Italian, and German."

Poems forthcoming in Charles Fishman's Blood to Remember: American Poets on 
the Holocaust (Time Being Books)


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