I first discovered Lorri Neilsen Glenn through her Brick Books collection Lost Gospels, in 2010. It was a complex book, combining her intellectual engagement with the philosophy of Simone Weil with other, more personal, poems. Her unforced rhythms and use of imagery reflecting both the natural world and the domestic world were things I found very appealing. And the balance between beauty and imperfection was perfectly drawn, creating a need to keep reading, hoping these dynamic opposites could be resolved.
I’m not myself a poet or a writer, but simply an interested reader. Thus, it wasn’t her technical brilliance that first caught my eye; it was the simple beauty and the accessibility of her poems. This one in particular, from Lost Gospels, startled and stopped me:
is such a ragged time. The shirred day loosened from the line we strung
across the reach of morning, when a bird called out its signature, its signature,
and we opened to the hours ahead, settling in to carve again a pure
clear shape around each thought and plan, an offering, a duty done,
a passage read, or one more step or image caught or lesson learned or heart
set right, but sundown pulls along its arc the last descending string of light,
leaves us with minutes in our hands, frayed recollections, wild release,
the folly of ambitious plans we trade for rest and abject peace.
I’ve never forgotten this. Each image is so strong on its own, and the emotional power of this brief poem reflects the entire collection. Neilsen Glenn’s focus on the natural world and its correspondence to our internal, spiritual world illuminates her poetry, as well as her later essays. It makes these poems transparently lovely to the casual reader, while at the same time rewarding a close reader with the expansion of language and meaning that result from more focused study.
As a dedicated home sewer, I was taken with the image of a day shirred upon a line, how we hang up our hopes and plans in the morning and gather them in at dusk. The picture this poem evoked for me, of a silvery length of fabric gathered up in quiet arms, has stayed with me. So much so that I am in the process of embroidering these words onto a skirt, to carry poetry with me ‘across the reach of morning’. Poetry can indeed inform our days, in both intellectual and material ways.
(“Dusk” used by permission of the author & publisher)
Find out more about Lorri Neilsen Glenn at her website.
Melanie Kindrachuk is a librarian and committed reader, with a book blog called The Indextrious Reader which she’s been keeping for 9 years.