Thursday, April 8, 2010

Dipping into Diane Ackerman's Poetry

More recently, I've found my way to her poetry. In that genre, too, she can astonish and delight and also leave you to musing.

Ackerman's poetry collections include Jaguar of Sweet Dreams (Vintage, 1993), I Praise My Destroyer (Vintage, 2000), and Origami Bridges: Poems of Psychoanalysis and Fire (Harper Perennial, 2003). Her Wife of Light (Morrow, 1978) and The Planets: A Cosmic Pastoral (Morrow, 1976) are out of print (both collections are listed at Amazon but available only through other sellers).

I am most familiar with the poems in I Praise My Destroyer, which merit more than a single reading. These are poems that create color-visions of botanical and natural wonders out of words:

In the lavender hours after daybreak,
before the sun leapt onto the blue stage of the sky
to begin its light opera of soul-searing heat,. . .
~ From "When the Deep Purple Falls"

Because the gods are baking winter cakes
powdered sugar sifts over the yard
in slow motion, hushed as thought.
Bare trees resemble sticks of cinnamon. . . .
~ From "Seasoning"

Liquid memory, how gold the prison
trapping this fly undecayed in sunlight,
anatomy pure as any time traveler's.
~ From "Amber"

The poems take on love and the "hard" subjects of death, loss, and the harshness and disappointments of life, as in "We Die"  — We die despite appointments and feuds . . . Life is not fair. . . Lost friend, you taught me lessons. . . . — and in "Elegy" — The world is breaking someone else's heart / today, the roses are busily mumbling scent, / all the greens of summer have blown apart / in a mad fandango of blossom, sap, and art . . . .

How can it all end,
the moon making foil of the blueblack sea,
at twilight the sandbars holding lavender
among turquoise shadows, . . .
~ From "I Praise My Destroyer"

Ackerman's poems also give us wisdom, vivid metaphors, and depictions of some memorable gone-wrong heirlooms of history, such as Colonial Williamsburg:

Sad work here:
one-night stanzas
among the magnolia
and the wild holly,
whose dry leaves roll
to the three-cornered hats.

Time is stockaded
in the colonial square, . . .
~ From "Williamsburg, Virginia"

And the poems give us the lyrical voice of a writer in love with nature and celebrating life with graceful acceptance:

At sunset, when your large fir
cradles the moon in its arms
and colors surge, remember me,
the caresser of life ever moving,
with a heart full of mischief,
and tense, fragile dreams.
~ "Where You Will Find Me"

Ackerman maintains a schedule of readings and appearances on her Website. Go hear her if you get the chance.


A biography at the site for The Pennsylvania Center for the Book.

See "At Play with Diane Ackerman", an interview at January magazine. An interview also is available at Powell's.

Below is a video from of Ackerman speaking about "subversive acts" of compassion and on other topics she addresses in her beautifully written book The Zookeeper's Wife.


Susan C Brown said...

Thanks for the lovely samplings here. I'm looking forward to her appearance at the Kentucky Women Writers Conference this fall.

katdish said...

Liquid memory, how gold the prison
trapping this fly undecayed in sunlight...

Wow! That's great. Thanks, Maureen. You're like my online source for culture.

M.L. Gallagher said...

Maureen, what I really appreciate about reading your blog every morning is that you fill me with gratitude.

I am so grateful for the wonders you release into my world. Grateful for the new authors and old familiar faces.

The Zookeeper's Wife is one of my favourites. Liseanne and I both read it and wept and laughed and were enthralled and moved. My friend Ursula, a Polish Catholic woman who was deported to Siberia from Poland with her mother in 1942 gave Diane Acerkman's book to me for my birthday just after it was released.

it is a treasure.

I also am grateful for this video of her talkinga bout the story of Antonina and her predilication to save people and animals. I love the idea of 'radical compassion'.

Thank you my friend. As the sun lightens the sky, joy rises with the treasures I always find here.

Kathleen said...

"the roses are busy mumbling scent"
I could learn to be a poet from reading her. Something about how she sees, makes me feel like I know her and like her. :)

Anonymous said...

Wow, her poetry is beautiful. Thanks for introducing me to it. :)

jenne said...

Wonderful of you to showcase Diane. Her work has influenced many of us and your comments are wise, helping us see into her beautiful poems. xj

S. Etole said...

her words create a longing for more ...

S. Etole said...

Her words create a longing for more ...

Lorrie said...

What Katdish said! I love this post and all your poetry. Thanks for coming over to my place today, I'm honored. You're a treasure!

sarah said...

I loved The Zookeeper's Wife but had no idea she was also a poet. Thank you for this fabulous post!

Anonymous said...

Hi Maureen,
Have been reading regularly since we met. I am not familiar with Diane's work and love the poetry you have featured. Thank you for your blog. It is wonderful!

Laura said...

I agree with Katdish. I learn so much from your posts, Maureen. These samplings are gorgeous. I received my copy of First Invite Love In today. Can't wait to dig in!