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Earth Listening

These are lovely poems from a poet who has lived for a long time in Greece (she also maintains a home in New Hampshire) and writes with grace and elegance about the natural world in its relationship to human stories and histories. Her verse is more restrained than effusive, more controlled than lush, rendering the landscapes of her geographies, her (our) history, and her mind in sharply etched lines:

These are lovely poems from a poet who has lived for a long time in Greece (she also maintains a home in New Hampshire) and writes with grace and elegance about the natural world in its relationship to human stories and histories. Her verse is more restrained than effusive, more controlled than lush, rendering the landscapes of her geographies, her (our) history, and her mind in sharply etched lines:

The words in my mouth
are the tides and sands
of the Ionian Sea,
the feathers of gulls
turning east along the tidal flats,
the slight wind puffing the soft gray down of their heads.
My traces sounds
to a time of no measure
where women were buried
in narrow earthen tombs…

Sakellariou’s preoccupations (and whose are not?) are the aspects of the human condition that cause grief and/or confusion about grief (“I pull the gray hood of grief over my head”; “I am still not clear about this dying thing”; “How do we do this thing called living?”). She is a poet who searches: “our human seedlings / which lean against the earth / searching for signs / of what we have been told”; who worries about her legacy: “Who will come? / Who will call my name?”; who believes there may be joy in the world, but cannot be sure of it: “I too have heard about joy, / how it arrives in a thousand hymns.” She approaches joy, exuberance, optimism, but feels herself removed from it: “Could it be that this table / is the last that we will set?”.

Always in her poems personal history and the natural world are inseparable, as seen here in the first stanza of “Traveling North”:

I have suddenly become serious.
I no longer write of betrayal.
Instead, I travel north
through clear pond country, south
toward almond trees
that line the inland sea.
I breathe in the calling clouds,
my lungs lined with white, blue,
two landscapes dug
into the jigsaw of my bones.
The water’s curve brings relief,
the grove, a grasp of edged shadows.

The book comes with CD of the poet reading her poems. However, I did not listen to it. Her distinctive, intelligent, and elegant voice comes through loud and clear in these poems.

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