My rating: 5 of 5 stars
A delicate writing desk stands ready for use in a sunny room on the cover of Naomi Ruth Lowinsky’s collection of poems, Adagio & Lamentation. The room is filled with light from the world outside the high arched window. The watercolor painting by the poet’s grandmother Emma Hoffman (“Oma”) displays a room Lowinsky saw many times as a teenager when she visited Oma’s house.
One can imagine Lowinsky working in such a room with a pen so sharp that it tears the paper, cutting through the desk’s polished veneer to carry ink and light deep into the primary wood. “I wish you could stop being dead,” Lowinsky writes to Oma in the opening poem, “so I could talk to you about the light.”
The nib on Lowinsky’s pen shreds the curtain of time that conceals her ancestors and allows them to speak. “The spirit of my dead grandmother came to us as we lay after love in the renovated Old Milano on the northern California coast.” The spirit’s words in “ghost gtory” cut deep. In “Adagio and Lamentation,” the poet hears her father playing the piano while “our dead came in and sat around us a ghostly variation/and my grandmother sang lieder of long ago.”
Lowinsky’s collection of poems is organized into four sections, “before the beginning and after the end,” “what broke?,” “great lake of my mother” and “what flesh does to flesh.” With strength, certainty and intuition, the poems live and breathe on their pages, and when experienced together, comprise an ever-new song about long-ago wars, colors, shadows, moments and people.
Joy and sorrow dance slowly in the light throughout Adagio & Lamentation. From the opening invocation to Oma to the closing “almost summer,” Lowinsky’s words—written with “a flicker of serpent’s tongue in her ear”—tear through the paper-thin present and drive their way deep into the underworld of the unconscious where the inspirations of her muse are fiery, erotic, earthy, transcendent and whole.
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–Malcolm R. Campbell is the author of “The Sun Singer,” “Garden of Heaven: an Odyssey” and “Jock Stewart and the Missing Sea of Fire.”