At the age of 72 a seasoned poet turns to a traditional form new to her. She produces six sestinas and adds a set of short, related free-verse poems. The result is a unique and vivid exploration of time and space, art and language, spirituality and the ways of the writing mind. The reader will meet a tiny woman wrestler embedded in a heart, a ranting God, a bewildered Ezekiel, a spider who knows when to eat her web, a young word hiding in a cave, an old woman hunting gold. The preface and appendix act as a helpful frame, offering glimpses into the poet's process.
Margaret Blanchard, educator, activist, author of Hatching: A Novel; This Land: A Novel Memoir; The Rest of the Deer: An Intuitive Study of Intuition; and other books, writes:
I recommend Shirley Glubka's End into Opening to other poets as well as to lovers of poetry.
Other poets, because Glubka is a poet's poet, from whom poets have much to learn, as she traces her journey from the free verse experimental 60's and 70's when she was young to her exploration of poetic forms in her later years (in appreciation of "the joy of old forms" such as our aging selves) -- in this case the sestina with its six six-line stanzas and rotating six "end words," as explored in the six sestinas and six "companion poems" in this volume (itself a sestina of sestinas). Not only does she describe the form in some detail, she shares both her practice and her reflections upon her own process of discovering and using this particular form in a way that can be instructive for other poets.
I recommend this book as well to lovers of poetry because the poet has written some brilliant poems for this collection.
I was particularly taken by the last three sestinas, and their companion poems: "Instinctive Behaviors of the Known World" (where she imagines herself weaving a web as a spider does); "A God of Gentle Endings Came to Me," bringing not fire but water as a final message"; and "Every Mind Considered Mystical (For Which, Great Gratitude)" which grounds philosophical questions about mystical meaning in an image of the gold in nature's mysteries.
The title of this volume, End into Openings, speaks both to the sestina form (where end words shift meaning into ever new openings) and to the reflections on life's final forms and their meanings, both mystical and spiritual, where endings can offer the promise of new openings, whether through insight or through experience. I also like how the sestinas in the whole book get better and better, along with their "companion poems," providing "proof" for the promise of the title.
Sestina from End into Opening:
Instinctive Behaviors in the Known World
If I were a spider I'd spin a silken thread. I'm human. I'll spin a thought
and toss one end of it away. A gentle breeze might carry it through space
and on the other side of space (how wide? how limited?) the line
might catch. A spider's thread will have the luck, why not my line? And both turn silver
in the near-full moon's essential light against a backdrop of a night so black
the spider and her imitator, I, will wonder at the contrast, the design. We'll be work-worn
and take a breather then. But no. I'm the one by single thought work-worn.
She'll scurry out across her sturdy silken line (she's made it taut) without a thought
and while she's running spin a second looser line that dares to sag into the black,
the night that frames the moon. I'll watch her work and try to learn her use of space.
She travels down her new line but half-way. At centerpoint she drops a silver
thread, her third. She's working now toward her complexity, line by half-line.
And I? I'm staring at that moon. It won't go whole tonight. Invisible, it seems, the line
from mind to moon, but it makes a ready path for us, well-traveled, deeply worn.
We love the moon but call it cold, this sky-rock white of surface casting silver
sheen, transforming objects lying on the earth. It pulls against whatever thought
the poet thinks is hers and yet extends that thought across a larger space
than if the night could only, lightless, lacking white, pulse down pure black.
My spider is a good geometer. Her web is framed by symmetry against night's black.
Does she know this? Inside the symmetry she spins and crosses line by line
the lines she's spun before, but always with a looser second line that sags in space
and won't go taut until she tells it to. She gets her web. She uses it until it's worn
and then, quite likely, eats it. I wonder if I've ever eaten any part of any thought
of mine that's frayed beyond the point of use, or if I might insist it's silver
still, I in my pride, and refuse to eat, digest, discard. Deluded, seeing silver
shining out against my own dark night's deep holy black,
might I be clinging to my web, pretending prey to catch, reducing thought
to what it's ever been, reworking line and line and line
until the deep design itself is ground to dusty nothing, so outworn
it cannot resurrect, revivify, or spray its few fresh filaments out into space
where further thought would further lines spin out for crossing into further space
and then retrace until design from nothingness might once again emerge, a silver
vision floating to the edges of infinity? And would the new design, worn
to fraying majesty, want, like the spider's web, to be consumed? In the black
of moonless night might I return upon a breeze, blessed and carried by a single line,
and finally agree to feast on what I find out there, my own exhausted thought
caught in space by my, though cherished, outworn web, web inside web, black
now, not silver, wrapped to smothering by careful line linked evermore to careful line?
Shall I sit beside my spider then, laughing while we chew our tasty bits of damaged web and thought?
Companion to "Instinctive Behaviors in the Known World":
[I thought a stone]
I thought a stone
and thought the stone must hold
and thought the thingness held
inside the stone.
Next came to me a shape
more empty than the universe.
All space filled the empty shape
and every line would travel there.
Silver was the sense of things that day.
A necessary shadow, nearly seen,
thin as lines, and worn,
grows hard around the silver sense of things,
but let us not fear black.
Inside the stone / is known.
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