Sea Leafs By Moon
by Barbara Robinette
76 numbered pages
5 3/8 ” x 8 3/8″ plus plastic laminated bookmark
Printed by Morris Publishing
Price: $17.00 (includes postage and handling)
payable only by MONEY ORDER to
777 Briarwood Road
Viola, Arkansas 72583
Please indicate you want the author’s autograph if you do. Otherwise the book will be shipped sans autograph.
Barbara Robinette was a member of Poets & Writers Literary Forum of Springfield, Illinois when I first met her and her husband Paul who were then living in nearby Divernon. She was an eager, smiling contributor of poems to every project engaged by that august assemblage and its shakers, and her zeal for poetry taken seriously grew in profusion and quality following their move to rural Arkansas when Paul retired at a very young age — if his wife’s looks are any indication. Sea Leafs by Moon is her first bound book of her poems though several have appeared in anthologies and orally in the CD Expressions produced by The Free Verse Poetry Group of Mountain Home, Arkansas.
Learning of the book in process, I reacted to the news as one might to a book entitled perhaps “Rose Clantics Over Bordenthwaite.” The title was unique, but I didn’t know what it meant. The combination was out of syntax with my lexicon as it might be with Whitman’s epic Leaves of Grass. Before opening the book, I hoped there would be an explanation of the title in an introduction or on the back of the title page, but there was not, and I worried I was going to be assaulted by a bag of mystic lore of elves (not elvis and certainly not elfs.) All my concerns disappeared after I read the first two lines of “Beloved.”
Included with the book is a laminated plastic bookmark with a reproduction of the book’s cover on one side and a poem, not repeated in the pages, entitled “The poet to her book.” Here the author talks to “her book” as a parent might talk to a daughter or son leaving home for the first time, to rendezvous with an uncertain future. The bookmark is large enough and weighty enough to be felt immediately when fanning through the pages even though it’s small enough to be hidden when the book is closed. Not that I’m suggesting Barbara Robinette is the new “Thomas Edison” of poetry, but she has improved the accessory, making it easier to use than simple card stock incarnations. Her dating the bookmark at the end of the poem fixes this book in time. I hope she produces similar bookmarks when she publishes more titles which I am confident will come if this production sells as well as it should. These literary laminates could even be sold without the book.
Before the sequence of poems begins, on an un-numbered page 3, the author shares “Poem… to you, Reader.” In doing this, and in the first of three “chapters” (I can’t think of a better term) entitled “Leafs,” the author ingratiates herself into the reader’s perspective of poetry and no doubt expands it with the 13 therein. What the author feels, shared here, is the inside skinny, what people who write creatively go through. One is entitled “To my family who are not poets” is a glimpse of astute observation that embraces everyday (a quiet living room, dogs asleep, tails unmoving on the nap rugs and becomes poetry as the author shares her witness of it.ife from poetry. The final poem in this chapter is a combined homage to Emily Dickinson and Huck Finn, though only Em’ly is mentioned; a delightful romp.
Another innovation seen in Sea Leafs By Moon is the occasional reduction of font size so that longer lines may be printed as the author intended and not arbitrarily cut short and continued on the next because the page is too narrow. Even with reduced print size, “An Ars Poetica in Honor of Emily Dickinson’s lack of an MFA…The Odd Singer’s Oblong Hooray” (a title Will Rogers might have conjured if he’d lived longer) is a breeze to read and every bit as refreshing. Use of single lines double spaced in parts of and, occasionally in entire poems is innovation that works. The reason — the desired outcome — is apparent. Not so is inconsistent use of upper case in the titles, but that’s okay. This is poetry; not a story written for the Associated Press feed to newspapers all over the world. Besides not even newspaper headlines are what they used to be.
Every poem is three to 24 lines and presented on a single page. This is honey to the roving eye. Why? Because once the reader discovers this, there will be no hesitation to read every one at least once. I’ve never been threatened by a 24-line poem on a single page. Show me a poem in two or more pages, and I begin to worry the author is turning into a “guest luncheon speaker” with a pint of points to make in a gallon of time. Hang me if you must, but I may be the only self-proclaimed American poet who has not read every line of Walt Whitman’ L’s of Grass. This is not to say the author is simple. Each poem is the view from one window. This is sophisticated poetry that reaches the eyes and heart completely from one page at a time and reverberates around the soul long after that.
The second chapter, the longest, is entitled “Tree Leafs” and rightfully lauds life in her cabin in rural Arkansas with smattering references to childhood, family and friends. “Happiness” shares an “ah HA! moment” in her six-line description of her home that trumps the best haiku I’ve read. Well, maybe “of course” because after all she had three more lines. People who say this do not understand haiku. Many poems here are JOY in two dimensions that become more than two dimensions when the reader takes them in. Yet there’s tremendous tragedy and irony: in “From Looking Out The Window” a small herd of deer approaching corn scattered on a concrete slab that had until recently been the foundation of a neighbor’s house destroyed by a tornado that killed the neighbors’ daughter.
Folks who have sung from Methodist hymnals, at least, know how the title of the song is often the first words sung. “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God” begins . . . you know how it begins. Other titles suggest what’s coming — “Poetic Advice” — and most titles are separate entities, the moons to the planets. The author introduces something new to me, and delightful: a title that the start of the poem. The poem title transcends the double space that separates it from the poem on page 54. It reads
purrs on my lap
on a quiet cloudy day and it…..
It goes on from there. This is nifty. Poetry should not be so obvious and comprehensible that one can read it with one arm tied behind your back. Readers should engage poetry with both hands. Barbara Robinette’s poems in Sea Leafs By Moon facilitate the process and reward all who engage it with both hands.
The focus of the third and final chapter, “Sea Leafs By Moon” is revealed in the first poem therein: “Poetry and God.” The author boldly ventures from what is almost universal mono-deism (reflecting the world of one omnipotent god) to card-carrying Jesusness in “Sitting by the Campfire, 30 A.D.” sub-titled “the other disciple.” The success of this glimpse of the disciple who stays awake at the dying campfire “while the Master sleeps” is not from the unique doctrine espoused. There is no doctrine here. Instead the reader is given an almost supernatural gift of a common situation made real in the sharing in only 16 lines, more intensely than probably possible in prose. The writing style is generous, more prosy and conversational by far than in many of her poems where economy of phrasing seems paramount and succeeds every time. The chapter is intensely spiritual and accessible to readers without being preachy or contrivingly mystical. These are vignettes; not sermons. They are as down to earth — not aloof or vague or remote — as the sun warming the white stone at the start of the chapter.
If there is any uncertainty regarding who the fring-frang Barbara Robinette IS when the reviewers aren’t snooping into her life off the page, the focus of her picture, which appears only after the poems, removes all doubt. Taken by her husband and accompanied by a three-sentence biography, it shows a woman with a smile broad enough to fly a Boeing 747 through and as bright as the sun. She is posing in the kitchen. . . . . For readers who missed that, I’ll say it again: THE KITCHEN! This may incite cries of “treason!” from Gloria Steinem and her sisters, but this is “t’ reason” — one of many — this book works so well. The author is grounded exactly where she wants to be; not on rocky precipice overlooking a river somewhere in Arkansas or Tibet. Sea Leafs By Moon is a book about home, revealing the world viewed through many windows of a home well blessed. I was privileged to visit that home, to share those views. And soon after you purchase this superb first book from a promising — and delivering — transplant from the wilds of Divernon, Illinois, I bet you will feel the same.
Live long . . . . and proper
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