"Garnet Lanterns "

2005 Winner of the Anabiosis Press Chapbook Contest.

Written by: Sally Rosen Kindred
Published by: The Anabiosis Press
ISBN: 0-0727955-4-5

Reviewed by: Charlotte Mandel

Genre: Poetry

Beyond the Ark

a review by Charlotte Mandel

Garnet Lanterns


Sally Rosen Kindred's prizewinning chapbook, Garnet Lanterns, adds a strong new voice to the canon of contemporary women poets concerned with biblical revision. The cover is evocatively designed, suggestive of Ark, rainlights falling from sky, an eventual moon. Scriptural narrative, primarily from Genesis, is brought to task in terms of realities of human bodily experience.

Kindred's language manipulates sensory images to involve the reader. The chapbook opens with a direct address "To Eve": "Why don't we halve your apple / and set it in the sun / and watch it brown over like gauze / once bloodied?" Shades of red express a variety of emotions--from anger to light to despair. The "Garnet Lanterns" of the title appear to be earth minerals carried in the hold of Noah's ark, their intrinsic light waiting to be brought into true daylight. The poem "Red Life" enacts a sensuous imagistic personification of poetic struggle: "Form {is} the place where my thumb becomes air / and air meets the wet not-me of your mouth, / suckle of stanza break, first lick / of spring." The poems move fearlessly from realization of the carrion food available to the raven who does not return to the ark, to the returning dove's unsentimental address to Noah: "I bring sour stems / torn from the next green world."

Tenderness blends with erotic magic in "Your Arm"--a love poem that captures life force in words, and in the very walls of the house and yard where she lives. The closing poem "No Eden" images a pear as symbol, reminding of a mother's soft cheek, listening "for angels unbuckling / their crimson ladders." In this example, as in a few others, images of redness may be asked to carry more weight than is earned.

Kindred expresses the ways that maternal love blends with fear for a child in poems to her small son, and in the voice of Noah's wife to her granddaughter as she works in her garden: "Either it is or is not enough / to breathe wrist-deep in the soil on Ararat / and wait for water to come / for these open hungry seedlings-- / to love a world where the wrong things / make light." The reader, too, must ponder the naming of those "wrong things" that "make light." Not least, I imagine, are the violent explosions that light up our television screens. In "Least Breath" a poem addressed to her little son, the rainbow's pledge of peace to Noah is questioned: "What / can you make God promise?" The poems in Garnet Lanterns ask important questions.

Charlotte Mandel is the author of six books of poetry, including Sight Lines, The Life of Mary and The Marriages of Jacob. She edited Saturday's Women, the Eileen W. Barnes Award anthology of women poets. As an independent scholar, she has published a series of critical essays on the role of cinema in the life and work of H. D.