Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Review: Sharp as Want

Sharp as Want

Poetry by Jeanie Tomasko
Artworks by Sharon Auberle

Little Eagle Press, P.O.Box 684, Baileys Harbor, WI, USA
littleeaglepress@gmail.com  ISBN 978-0-9823419-7-1 Cover price $15

Little Eagle Press produces some of the most eye-catching books on the market, and Sharp as Want is no exception. It’s a collaborative work between a poet, Tomasko, and a photographer and visual artist who is also a poet, Auberle, and it looks beautiful, from the dazzling colours of the cover photo (I don’t know what they’re called so I won’t embarrass myself by saying, simply, "orange and yellow") to the black and white full-page illustrations of the poetry inside. There are Buddhas, Madonnas, shells, bees and tree branches heavy with snow. Some are photographs and some are paintings; some have recognisable forms and some are abstracts. All of them give up more meaning and more beauty the longer you study them. Sharon Auberle, as someone who can write terrific poetry too, has a range wide enough to be envied by all but the most conceited arse.

Jeanie Tomasko’s poetry shows an impressive range too, and like Auberle, if this isn’t too much of a contradiction, the uniformity of theme of a poet worth spending some time with. The first section of the book ‘Wherever there is Distance’ is about a dear friend dying of cancer. But even in these understandably bleak moments there’s an involvement with nature, a physical, sensory, spiritual involvement (somewhat characteristic of this Wisconsin group) with the woods and the wind, the birds, the snow, the rivers, the hidden paths. This appears again in the love poetry, the haiku, the short poetry of place and moment, and in the ones that won’t quite surrender their meaning (which I insist is not a bad thing whatever the third-rate poetry hacks in provincial creative writing workshops tell you). The emotional weight of the early poems in the book doesn’t disappear either. One thing I like very much about Sharp as Want is that Tomasko isn’t just writing to be cute; there is feeling in these poems, and when feeling is present but it doesn’t overwhelm form, which it doesn’t here, you tend to have poetry that’s better than the average.

My favourite in the collection is ‘5 a.m. Rain’, a turned-sideways concrete poem (well, I guess it’s a concrete poem, although that seems a rather dumb label to apply to water), which is a beautiful, touchable, breathable evocation of, yes, rain, and love and memory. I tried to do something similar this year and failed wretchedly, so I know how difficult it is. But there’s a lot in Sharp as Want I admire and I think you will too, if you’ve reached a sufficient level of maturity to know that death is inevitable and love of life and place and other people the only weapons that we have against the darkness. Cover price is $15 but since it looks as good as any book we’d find in a bookshop in the high street I don’t think we can complain.


Mimi's Golightly Cafe said...

Many thanks, Bruce, for that thoughtful and generous review...much appreciated!

Bruce Hodder said...

My pleasure. Every word sincere.

jeanie said...

Thank you Bruce! What fine writing and, yes, generous thoughts. I am glad you like "5 am rain", a poem that came about a year ago, in the 5 am rain. It's funny, the poems I work and work at, don't seem to have the impact as ones like this, that somehow come unbidden.

Bruce Hodder said...

You're very welcome. I hope the review alerts a few more people to the great work you're both doing.