New book of poems by Southern California poet Ruth Bavetta....
|Title||:||Embers on the Stairs|
|Number of Pages||:||90 Pages|
|Status||:||Available For Download|
|Last checked||:||21 Minutes ago!|
Embers on the Stairs Reviews
Reading Bavetta’s newest collection is like wandering through a retrospective of a woman’s life. Her writing is quiet, thoughtful, and thought-provoking. Many of the poems have flashes of subtle humor, making the reader feel as though she would like to become friends with the speaker.There are understated layers of meaning in poems depicting an event which, on the surface, appears ordinary. In “Self Service,” a buffet is described. Every line of this poem is a metaphor for life. In the beginning, the speaker is faced with heaping platters of food, implying that all of life is there for the taking. However, one might wish to exchange a hasty choice, to “slip my first husband back/among the lemons.” The poem ends with these lines: Now the line in front is shorter than the line behind. I’m getting closer to the end, to the place I’ll have to pay for everything that’s on my tray.Bavetta is a native Californian, and her love of her state drives much of her writing. Give me someone who sings of golden hills dehydrated under an August sun, of sage and chaparral, eucalyptus and red-tailed hawks,and crummy motels hooded with bougainvillea.(Oranges and Pomegranates)With a deft turn, a significant detail is quietly inserted into a brief poem. Bavetta is a master at this. Dry as touchwood the canyon in flames grass crackling no firebreak smoke boiling roiling into a sky of meaningless blue the biopsy results all afternoon ashes fall into my garden. (Brushfire)Although “Elegy for My 1958 Volkswagen” was a strong contender, in part due to fond memories of the Bug I had in college, the poem I keep returning to is “Den Norske Amerika Linje,” in which the speaker’s husband has a recurring dream of his frantic departure from Norway to America. Fort deg, fort deg, hurry, hurry, my beloved. You must be on board the Stavangerfjord. You must come to Amerika and find me.I am so glad I found Ruth Bavetta’s wonderful poetry.
Reading 'Embers on the Stairs' reminded me of why I love poetry. The postman delivered the book to my door early this afternoon, and with the exception of coffee and bathroom breaks, I hadn't managed to put it down. Maybe the fact that I consider Ruth a good friend, (one without a drop of pretense or condescension in her body) has made me read these poems with a fuller appreciation of the poet who wrote them. By the end of the book, you can’t help but feel a little transfigured, a little more thankful that there’s someone out there who not only perceives the world this way, but has the talent to express those perceptions beautifully. With Ruth, every word counts. Don’t get me wrong, though, the poems feel less like the hollow exercise of simply saying something beautiful, and more like the culmination of years of real living. The book’s a marriage of firecracker imagistic language and true sentiment without sentimentality. There’s a sense that the speaker has an immense appetite for life which refuses to be snuffed out, even “when the hot wind blows” and there’s less light than shade. Recollections of childhood and adulthood in California; of a failed marriage and the beginning of the final and happiest one, permeate through many poems, yet the language is so immersive and self-effacing that the reader never feels isolated from the experiences described. The poet doesn’t hold the reader’s hand, but she sure as hell doesn’t leave you stranded. Another impression I got was that the speaker never passes singular judgement, but recognises the shared responsibility of all those involved in distressing or damaging circumstances. That in itself is a pretty refreshing attitude. My first read was front to back, so I was carried along chronologically and noticed the subtle growth in wisdom, humour and playfulness, but most perceptibly, hard-earned strength. I could quote you a bunch of my favourite lines and phrases, but others have done a much better job. Besides, isolating just a handful of images would do an injustice to the collection as a whole. If you’re curious to see what good poetry is, grab a copy of 'Embers on the Stairs.'
One of the best books of poetry I've read since Bavetta's Fugitive Pigments came out last year, Embers on the Stairs is the product of a mature talent in command of her craft. In our youth-obsessed, sexist culture, it's a treat to read "Ode to Menopause." The writer exults: "no condoms, no jelly/no pills, no diaphragm/no fruit of desire/but desire itself." As a New-England-educated Californian, I appreciated the declaration in "Oranges and Pomegranates": "I'm tired of hearing about weathered barns/and cows and icy Vermont winters.... Let me see Latinos in white straw hats selling oranges/at the freeway offramps while ghost coyotes nip/at the tasseled edges of the city."Other favorite poems of mine included "Fishing Lesson," "Self-Service," "The Acrobatics of Desire," and "Low Tide." "Fishing Lesson" describes a painting-like coastal scene from multiple perspectives and using most of the senses. In "Self-Service," in which the poet compares her life to a cafeteria line, she wonders, "Can I slip my first husband back among the lemons?" "I'm getting closer to the end," she writes, "to the place I'll have to pay/for everything/that's on my tray." "Low Tide" returns to the beach, gorgeously describing the minutiae of the tide pools that we coastal Californians love. "The Acrobatics of Desire" signs off, "When I take my bow, the shattered stars/gleam and twinkle in the spotlights. Far below,/the crowd applauds, but I'm not afraid of them./I have the power of the lost wax wings." This reader is applauding.
Many enjoyable poems and several killers (such as "Addictions" and "Let there always be"). My favorite lines are from the poem "Requiem for July":If water is loneliness,I am a swimmer seeking stars.Hell, yes!
These poems spoke to me, particularly since Bavetta is close to my age, lives near the ocean, and has an artist’s eye for creating memorable detail. I had too many favorite poems to name, but especially enjoyed “Elegy for my 1958 Volkswagen,” the poem Rattle quoted as an example of what makes its editor accept a poem: “Four cylinders chugging/in the rear, it was like being chased/by a busy washing machine.” Bavetta balances humor and pathos, sometimes in the same poem. In “The Oracles,” she presents three doctors who come into an examination room to discuss her treatment options for breast cancer. Doctor three “bounds into the room” and announces, “The good news…is that [she does] not have cancer.” Reading the pathology report again, he adds, “Oops, ...didn’t see that part.” Here is a woman of experience who is willing to share her vulnerability, heartache, and triumph so that we can look a bit more objectively at ourselves.
I've been allowing myself one or two of these poems a day for a while because they are so evocative and speak to me in layers. Now that I have I have finished, I will go back to the beginning and start again. This is really an outstanding collection.
A second book by a talented lady. She reaches into your heart with her simplistic look at the surrounding world. She shares moments of triumph , sadness and victories of her life. A wonderful uplifting collection of poetry.
In her cover blurb for this book, Lisa Cihlar says "Ruth Bavetta's poems are clever. But that's okay . . ."And they are clever and it is okay. But I would use another term. I'd say the poems in Embers on the Stairs are irreverent.There's Bavetta's take on breast cancer consultation, for example, in "The Oracles"The first doctorhas a fine head of white hair.He says the only cureis to cut it all off.. . .The second doctor says. . . whichever I want.What I want is to run . . .Doctor number threebounds into the roomin purple pants and tennis shoes.. . .The last doctor looks youngerthan my youngest son . . . Or "Settling Accounts' that begins He has a mouth like a bankbook and endsWhenever he sees me, he looks up from his ledgerand hands me a paper clip.These slightly rueful poems make us chucklee with recognition of the absurd, even at that most frightening of diseases, and then marvel at their insight.But Bavetta is also capable of expressing a darker mood with a striking image as in "The Midnight Horse," whichgallops through the night,his hoofs striking starsagainst the black,his breath smoldering.. . . Eight years it's beensince I came to this place,riding on the backof cells gone wild.Or "Disorder"He hangs between lithiumand Depakote, the bonesof a bird balancedon the awful noise of flight. Or "Afghanistan"There is only this stain,only this growing fist of poppies, only these birds that gainthe cliffs of winter.Many of the poems in this collection are short, with a haiku-like clarity. On first reading some of them might seem merely clever. (Though I have to say that I have a soft spot for cleverness myself.) But on second reading or third, we see that they are also, as Cihlar continues "heartbreaking and universal and astonishingly good."