The Arty Semite

Metaphysics of Landscape: Four Poems by Jennifer Barber

By Jake Marmer

  • Print
  • Share Share

Each Thursday, The Arty Semite features excerpts and reviews of the best contemporary Jewish poetry. This week, Jake Marmer introduces four poems by Jennifer Barber.

Courtesy of Jennifer Barber

“All forms of landscape are autobiographical,” wrote poet Charles Wright, and indeed, some poets, while describing natural or urban landscapes, tend to use words that echo with metaphysical sensations evoked by these landscapes in our inner lives. This, to some extent, is true of all four poems by Jennifer Barber, featured on The Arty Semite today. The concept comes to light most explicitly in “Proximity,” while “Dwelling” reverses gears, using a play of private and public spaces as a layered metaphor. The poem “The Way to Rainbow Lake” touches subtly on the setting before it dissipates into a spiritual experience of nature and one’s own emotions.

Jennifer Barber’s “Rigging the Wind” received the Kore Press First Book Award for 2002 and was published in 2003; her next collection, “Given Away,” is forthcoming from Kore Press. She has been the recipient of a Pushcart Prize, a St. Botolph Grant, and a Heinrich Boll Cottage Residency in Ireland. Her poem “God Doesn’t Speak in the Psalms” was awarded the 2008 Anna Davidson Rosenberg Award. Barber is the founding and current editor of the literary journal Salamander, now in its 19th year.


The Way to Rainbow Lake

Only one other car in the lot
and a man got in
and drove it away.

A bank of mist
moved past the mountain.
Thunder against
the Divide,
thunder and blue lightning.

You walked on ahead.
I wanted to go back.

And the ancient Hebrew
God leapt to mind,
intimate, everywhere.

And Elijah on the slope
after the shattering,
after the wind and the fire.


Proximity

After the barn
and yearling calves,
a clapboard house,

pink aquarelle to match
the old hydrangea.

Through a thin
curtain, somebody
visible upstairs,
leaning over a bureau,

maybe opening
a drawer,
sliding out a photograph–

the ritual does
nothing to dispel
the eyes’ longing, the hand’s.

                  *

                

Or the longing is mine,
stubborn, irreducible,
like the rooms of a house,

secrets intact or not,

late at night or first
thing in the morning, before
I let the bedspread fall.

                  *

                

I’m here three days,
taking walks
through town,

the whole afternoon
an anteroom for night.

Across the road, a woman
stirs a steaming mash
for her sheep
crowding the trough.


Gomorrah

They’re at the edge
of the city,
having heard
rumors and cries.

What will they
see, what world.

The older messenger steps
through a door
in the wall

that circles this doomed
place for which
he’ll plead

with his open gaze
and dry husk of a mouth.


Dwelling

Behind the third
curtain of the heart, a town
empty of inhabitants
though lights are on
in all the houses,
windows open wide.
No watchman, no gate,
no human sound—
only the blizzard
of streetlamps on the hill.


Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Salamander, Poetry, Kore Press, Jennifer Barber, Jake Marmer, Charles Wright

The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.




Find us on Facebook!
  • Could Spider-Man be Jewish? Andrew Garfield thinks so.
  • Most tasteless video ever? A new video shows Jesus Christ dying at Auschwitz.
  • "It’s the smell that hits me first — musty, almost sweet, emanating from the green felt that cradles each piece of silver cutlery in its own place." Only one week left to submit! Tell us the story of your family's Jewish heirloom.
  • Mazel tov to Chelsea Clinton and Marc Mezvinsky!
  • If it's true, it's pretty terrifying news.
  • “My mom went to cook at the White House and all I got was this tiny piece of leftover raspberry ganache."
  • Planning on catching "Fading Gigolo" this weekend? Read our review.
  • A new initiative will spend $300 million a year towards strengthening Israel's relationship with the Diaspora. http://jd.fo/q3Iaj Is this money spent wisely?
  • Lusia Horowitz left pre-state Israel to fight fascism in Spain — and wound up being captured by the Nazis and sent to die at Auschwitz. Share her remarkable story — told in her letters.
  • Vered Guttman doesn't usually get nervous about cooking for 20 people, even for Passover. But last night was a bit different. She was cooking for the Obamas at the White House Seder.
  • A grumpy Jewish grandfather is wary of his granddaughter's celebrating Easter with the in-laws. But the Seesaw says it might just make her appreciate Judaism more. What do you think?
  • “Twist and Shout.” “Under the Boardwalk.” “Brown-Eyed Girl.” What do these great songs have in common? A forgotten Jewish songwriter. We tracked him down.
  • What can we learn from tragedies like the rampage in suburban Kansas City? For one thing, we must keep our eyes on the real threats that we as Jews face.
  • When is a legume not necessarily a legume? Philologos has the answer.
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.