I received “Falling in Caves” by Diane Kistner through Goodreads.  It is a selection from poems she wrote many years ago.  It is a great pleasure to read. The poems are very musical, often songlike, though the material is mostly serious and even grim (in one case, “Father and Son,” I want to spell that Grimm).  As I tried to pinpoint what I like about the style I realized that what makes these poems musical are the very things I have been repeatedly instructed by friends in workshops to avoid: repetition, phrases with of and the, little words like and.  These poems show what skill can do with material that less experienced poets are leery of, and chastise each other for using.  An example of this is the opening of “Shell”:

After the bell,
the fading bell,
last bell to be heard,
he walks the dark beaches,
far from the vain, curled alleys,
far from the world’s grave sanity.

Among the twenty two poems in this small collection, I particularly like “Ten Vain Attempts” (to get rid of anger) and the title poem.  “Falling in Caves” starts with a child’s fall while running, moves to the cave as a discovery of the past, and ends with:

There in the cave’s jaws
the first wheels started turning my head around.
They are turning still, down root-deep inside me,
meshing time’s slow, certain teeth.
We are falling into forever,
and there’s nothing to keep it from us.

My favorite of these poems is “The Walls”:

Four years old
with colored crayons,
you have discovered the walls.
Not old enough yet to know better,
you have covered the white expanse
of your boundaries
with castles and kings and queens
from your Mother Goose book.
You have walked
in your own enchanted forest.
You have flown bright flags
against a sky of dreams.
You have skipped down to a sea
of fishes, walked upon the beach,
built castles of sand
and danced
and laughed
when the waves
washed your castles away.
Crayon in hand
and queen of your land,
you believe
you can always make more.
When I spank you,
you cry you hate me
and stare with those dark yet
not yet extinguished eyes.
I wash and wash at your pictures
with soap and rags, trying
to make the walls dull
and white again.
How long will it be
before you stop fighting me,
I who am grown up
and see all colors at once,
undone, whirled into oneness?
How long will it be
before you accept the walls?

And I want to say to the child “Don’t accept the walls!” though I know we have to.  This poem takes its time to describe a familiar subject, both the literal four year old and the one inside each of us, and I enjoy every moment of it.

“Falling in Caves” is published by FutureCycle Press: http://www.futurecycle.org/PressTitles.aspx.    Another book in their catalog which is well worth your time and money is “Mosslight” by Kimberley Pittman-Schulz.  Both of these authors turn keen observations into music.  I found Kistner’s “Falling in Caves” the more satisfying, but both books suggest FutureCycle Press is a good source for finding poetry by good poets you might not have heard of before.

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