Editor's note: The 12th Annual Brattleboro Literary Festival gets under way on Friday, Oct. 4. Visit www.brattleboroliteraryfestival. org for information on authors, reading times and venues. The review below is part of a series of reviews of books by authors who will be attending the 2013 Brattleboro Literary Festival.
Patricia Fargnoli's latest book is "Winter," Hobblebush Books, 2013. She's published three other award-winning books of poems and three chapbooks. The New Hampshire Poet Laureate from 2006-2009, her awards include: The Robert Frost Foundation Award, The Shelia Mooton Poetry Award, Fore-Word Magazine Silver Poetry Award, New Hampshire Literary Award and a MacDowell Fellowship. She's published widely in such journals at Poetry, Ploughshares, Alaska Quarterly, Harvard Review, Green Mountains Review etc. A retired clinical social worker, she lives and teaches poetry privately in Walpole, N.H.
"Winter" By Patricia Fargnoli Hobblebush Books Patricia
Fargnoli's "Winter" begins with an epigram: "Somehow, in some ways,/it has managed to survive-/pampas grass in the snow." Basho's tribute to perseverance provides all the clue we need to Fargnoli's latest collection.
Though not every one of the 40-plus poems in "Winter" spells out the elder person's urge to keep going, most do in one imaginative way or another.
Of winter itself, the poet says, "But this is the slowed-down season/held fast by darkness/and if no one comes to keep you company/then keep watch over your own solitude." You see, even if you are by yourself in a snowbound cabin, there is something valuable to be taken care of. In another poem, the anticipatory thing about winter is likened to a red fox: "Down the hill running will come that flame/among the dancing skeletons of the ash trees./I will leave the door open for him."
Fargnoli's "Winter" comes in three parts. Poems in the first speak generally to her life as she lives it now alone in her cabin. In part two, the poet opens the window wide on the long life she has lived. And the third part addresses the question all of us seniors are asking, "Is there something still to do?"
Fargnoli's answer to that question is an honest one, captured, in one case, in a formal poem, a sequence of Korean "sijo." Written in three-line stanzas, each line with 14-16 syllables, the sijo shares its condensed form with the haiku. Here is one sequence from "Beginning of Winter."
"Last night in the dream I was hungry, but there was no food.
I was thirsty and no one came near. Love was what I needed.
When I woke I returned to my desk and wrote down the dream."
Here, as in many of the poems in this collection, the lived experience returns in a dream. Again, as in other poems in "Winter," we see that that life has not been easy, and there has been yearning. And finally, once more echoing several of Fargnoli's poems, when the recollecting is done the poet sits down to make something of it.
As an older, male reader I wondered how this poet who holds a distinctly female perspective, would come across. I know now that Fargnoli speaks her vivid truth concerning perseverance to everyone of a certain age, regardless of gender.
"The songs that continue to rise from our throats begin again out of the fire, out of the deaths and ghosts, out of the atrocities, with acceptance, with denial or prayer-or with rage so red-hot our hands shake from it, our throats dry out.
And still we begin again."
Fargnoli will be reading poems at next month's Brattleboro Literary Festival.
Charles Butterfield's poems, "Field Notes," appeared this summer. A biography, "In the Shadow of Cedars," will be released this fall.
For Love of Books is a column written by readers of notable books which may be found in local libraries and bookstores." Guidelines for Reviewers" may be requested from Brooks Memorial Library at 802-254-5290 or info@brookslibraryvt. org. Connect to the library's web catalog to search for books and other materials at brookslibraryvt.org.