Friday, August 22, 2014

Hidden Gems

    “Why is the heart alone in the chest?” Ona Gritz asks in her book of poems, Geode.
     She doesn’t give an easy answer, but in the poems you feel her heart at work.
     The collection takes one through her life, and she covers an impressive amount of territory without a single shallow note.  I have often found, in poems of trouble, the difficulties are set out like a sad offering at a flea market.  As is.  But Gritz uses each difficulty as a catapult to lift her vision, to look deeper into things, and further into future, or the past, or the lives of others.
     The beginnings and ends of her poems are double-edged.  When her father says, “a man of twenty / only wants one thing / and when I get pregnant, don’t come running to him,” she writes:
              how unfair a man is,
              this man, the first one I loved.
     In a poem about waiting for a late justice, at the hour of her marriage, she writes,
             How fully I want to love.
             Of course, anything one does fully
             is a journey alone.  But I don’t yet know this.
     I appreciated the perspective shifts.  Some poems were honed to a single, stunning image; others took you to the startling line by a meandering drive; they reflected what she called the shifting ‘ratio of love to heartbreak.’
      Most poems about relationships are stuck in the claustral space of the poet’s current thoughts.  Gritz’s poems about her relationships are not just memories, but interrogations of memory, layers of moments, words address to dead relatives, and notes to and from her past selves.
       I loved the poems about her blind lover, and the doors of perception he opened to her.  She notes that when your lover is blind, your fashion advice is gospel, and “You can stop shaving your legs.”
       The poem, “Route 2” begins:
             Why is divorce so expensive,
             Lynn asks . . ..
             Because it’s worth it.
      Humor is tragedy examined closely, and inside tragedy lies a seed of humor: humor is the flower and tragedy is the seed, each lies within the other in an endless unfolding.
       “People change and forget to tell each other,” Lillian Hellman said.  They even forget to tell themselves.  In this book, Gritz tells us, in order to grasp it all herself.  It’s a pleasure to accompany her.
      There is nothing sanctimonious in this volume, but every connection is sacred.  She speaks of the unpromising texture of the geode, which, when broken, reveals startling brilliance.  Each poem in Ona Gritz’s Geode was a rough moment opened by her hard work to offer us insight from the heart.