Suddenly I have books coming across my desk that draw upon — and celebrate — the knowledge and perspective that come with age. It seems like a good idea to highlight a couple of those in this column.
Robert Schuler’s newest book of poems, “The Book of Jeweled Visions” is his 15th book in 30 years of writing poetry. It’s a sort of Book of Hours, a collection of poems, meditations, devotions and prayers dedicated to spiritual contemplation and celebration. Here’s one in its entirety:
in a broken world
These poems tend to be brief, each jewel-like in how it catches attention, and refracts it in new directions. They encourage us to slow down, to take a moment, or a half hour, to contemplate our days. But just because he wants us to move with awareness through the world doesn’t mean there isn’t humor:
the American Millenium
my old man said he could buy
whatever he wanted
I’m just looking around
to see what’s left
Funny, meditative, romantic or brainy, Schuler inspires us to contemplation. These are poems that open out and resonate richly within the moment. There are references to Miles Davis, Claude Monet and other artists, writers and musicians. Schuler teaches at UW-Stout in Menomonie, and his love of education, of music and literature, comes through. You’ll also find snapshots of the natural world, and plenty of graceful love poems. All in all, this is a lovely little book for anyone who admires brevity, or who would like a book of daily poetic meditations. It is indeed a jewel.
Two Madison poets, Robin Chapman and Jeri McCormick, have brought out an anthology of poetry by 81 women titled “Love Over 60.”
I loved you then
in the old way of longing. Four wars,
nine recessions, ten presidents: patches.
Each year another July flag flings her ribboned
hat into the ring, another summer trying to
duplicate ours. Who were we on that park
bench that defies being folded and put away?
Forget it. Are you still alive? The rest is gibberish.
— from “Permanent Press,” by Alice Friman
The “love” of the title takes all forms in this book: romantic love, of course, but also the love of mothers for children, children for parents, siblings, forgotten love, lost love, longed-for and dreamed-of encounters, old schoolfriends, love witnessed from afar. The age of the poets gives all of their poems an overtone of earned experience. Unlike Schuler’s poems, these are largely narratives. There are stories here that need to be told.
This book is a great fit for anyone looking to celebrate the richness of life “over 60.” I found that I would pick it up thinking I’d read just one poem, and pretty soon find I’d been standing by my bookshelf, paging through it for 20 minutes.
When a number is divided by itself,
the answer is one. When a woman
is divided by her fantasies,
by ambition, unswept floors,
the answer is unknowable.
— from “Higher Mathematics” by Ann McNeal
Both of these are books to carry with you, to read at the gas station, in the check-out line, on the bus. Go ahead, try reading a poem a day on your break for a week. Reach for a poem with your morning coffee. Who knows what might happen?