Monday, March 10, 2008

Mother Chaos: Under Electric Light

The night shifts, shorn from the sky.

The stars fall away from their center.

The tilting, timed for now,

Lifts my feet from the ground.

I fix my eyes to the network of lights

Tacked to the night's blanket of curved space.

My night walk has drawn the last impossibility:

Stars rush from their center, uprooted by my waves.

~ from "Shifting Night" by Mattie Quesenberry Smith

I had the pleasure this weekend of savoring a brand new book of poetry by Mattie Quesenberry Smith. A native of old Virginia and mother of ten children, Mattie is the wife of independent film maker Doug Smith, whose Oscar-winning documentary Between Two Fires was reviewed on this blog. Mattie is a gifted writer who co-produced the film with her husband. Her poems, which have appeared in various journals over the years, have finally been gathered into one volume. Mother Chaos: Under Electric Light, published by Finishing Line Press, is a compelling collection which mingles searing insight with spiritual journeying. Various aspects of a contemporary young woman's life are explored, including the crassness and despair of modernity, the exploitation of the innocent, the mystical beauty of nature, and the awakening of faith.

It seems to me that the crafting of poetry requires a finely tuned command of the English language. Mattie possesses this quality in a manner which has become rare in our time. Her poems can be pondered over and over again with fresh insights gleaned, illumining the present realities with words that conjure images like a watercolor painting. The unseen world is pierced as well, especially in the following lines from "The Mourning Cloak:"
A palm spread across my face,
Impressed sky's air, and I cried
Through a lifetime: "Where's life
On the other side of 'I die'?"

Yes, I see You made the butterfly:
Egg, larva, silken spin, chrysalis sleep;
A moment's metamorphosis
Furled in a dull purple hue, gold and blue.

It rises to greet You now
In this snow white moment,
Heralding Spring on wing,
Pressing time's titanium hand.
What a wonderful gift this book of poems would make in someone's Easter basket! Share