Tuesday, May 16, 2006



Opera: Poems 1981 to 2002 by Barry Schwabsky
(Meritage Press, St. Helena & San Francisco, 2003)

Readers will find uncommon revelations in Barry Schwabsky's poetry. In fact, music, water, moonlight, sunlight, and desire take on new powers once this poet writes about them. In Opera, metaphorically, abstract art meets impressionism and the great composers of our past, gloriously transformed into words. For example, consider this excerpt from "Drafts (of water)":

A drowning breath, Luisa,
begins the poem
of our making

and unmaking -- night drifting
between two days. The sea
was calm, its music impossibly

translated. Flames
curl like waves, or was it
waves curl like flames?

Schwabsky records life's rhythm and allows his thoughts to dance, words moving to a melody that only he can hear. This excerpt from "Somewhere" is a haunting example:

Bright moments constantly darken
               leaving long shadows
pressed across floorboards that creak
               loudest after midnight.

He influences our emotional response in subtle ways through skillful blendings of words. "This Summer" transports us to one afternoon and places readers directly in the poet's shadow:

              And here
of a late afternoon senses shrink, bend,
stumble, the latent swipe of appearance
splits like lightning…

And again in "I Remember Lavender" the poet shares the surrealistic beauty of his morning:

That year morning light
expanded imperceptibly, transmuting every
thing into itself, you included, available
light coterminous with available space…

These poems are visual art, words creating pictures in the reader's mind. We see what the poet experiences, share the sensual impressions of small moments:

…plump/light/plucked/from orchards of touch.
…faces pale/and precious…
…a shiver of clear water.
…bland unmentionables among/the inky crumpled sheets.
…art wedged/into pleats/of reflection.
…our smoky passage/through thickset air.

Schwabsky's poetry is lyrical, infused with and influenced by his appreciation of art and music. For devotees of fine poetry, Opera is highly recommended.


Laurel Johnson is a Retired Registered Nurse and the author of four books. She is Senior Reviewer for Midwest Book Review; Review Editor for New Works Review; Staff Reviewer for Shadow Poetry Quill Quarterly Review and occasional submitting reviewer for The Wandering Hermit Review and Irish News and Entertainment. Her poetry and prose can be found online in various literary e-zines. She lives in Nebraska with her husband of forty years.


At 3:37 AM, Blogger rcloenen-ruiz said...

I liked this review a lot. I love Barry's Opera. It's very visual indeed.

At 5:58 PM, Blogger EILEEN said...

Other views are offered in GR #4 by Fionna Doney Simmonds at:



Michelle Bautista at:



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