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Wednesday, July 30, 2014

The Sorcerer's Apprentice

Heather Ross Miller's newest collection holds poems about her professor (or teacher, as she names him) Randall Jarrell, her birth family and her married family, and observations of what lies around her and in her mind's eye.  Celestial Navigator: Writing Poems with Randall Jarrell connects teacher and student in the work of bringing poems to life, the right word with the right line, the beauty of syllables and of laughter abounding through the lives of Randall and wife Mary.

Miller's classmates at what was then Woman's College of the University of North Carolina, drew upon inspirations that flowed from this poet, forming a unique sorority of young women captivated by a master of our language.  I regret not having met Jarrell, and will be posting another blog about that oversight in my life, but now I want to say bravo to Heather Ross Miller for giving this man back to us in ways we could never do: through her poetry.  

She describes herself in "A Woman Things Happen To" as:
". . . I'm an old woman
who tends the fire, waving aside smoke,
and dipping out the best morsels
so the children can eat."

She introduces her mentor in "Speaking In Tongues" by this stanza:
"Dandelions ripened and flew while I drew
on the sidewalks my hopscotch, world wars,
and fierce new tongues, German, Japanese.
Then when I'd grown and gone to college,
I found a man who spoke these, wrote these,
laughed them out loud, tongues he brought
together in one place, smelting sounds
in a Spartan kind of thing, a poem,
and he said I could too."

And so she could. And so she does still.  You need to read how she responds with her life-long words and poems.  I've given you just a quick taste of what she learned from that Celestial Navigator.

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