Select one of the keywords
In Troubling Times: Poems to Live By    edited by Joan Murray order for
In Troubling Times
by Joan Murray
Order:  USA  Can
Beacon, 2006 (2006)
* *   Reviewed by J. A. Kaszuba Locke

Joan Murray believes that poetry is 'a medium for healing, reflection, and comfort'. Her latest collection of international poetry - a follow-up to Poems to Live By: In Uncertain Times - provides a resource of 'wisdom and witness'. Murray tells us: 'These poems challenge me and comfort me; they alarm me and encourage me; they rouse my anger and stir my hope ... The words of poets - the intimate, honest, urgent words of poets who've come through their own troubling times - can help us see clearly ... they can rouse us from our torpor and persuade us to act. Then can help us restore ourselves - and reclaim our nation. Some words can be that powerful.' The collection is organized thematically, with verses that address anxiety, terror, courage, compassion, and action to question leaders and politicians. Not forgotten is meditation and prayer, but most of all hope for peace and justice.

Under Anxiety and Terror, I found 'The Terrorist, He Watches' by Poland's Nobel Laureate Wislawa Szymborska poignant - 'The bomb will go off in the bar at one twenty p.m. / Now it's only one sixteen p.m. / Some will still have time to get in, / some to get out ... A woman in a yellow jacket, she goes in ... One nineteen p.m. / No one seems to be going in ... It's one twenty p.m. / The time, how it drags ... Yes, this is it. / The bomb, it goes off.' The strength of D. H. Lawrence's 'Healing' is profound under Hope and Courage - 'I am not a mechanism, an assembly of various/sections. / I am ill because of wounds to the soul, to the deep / emotional self / and the wounds to the soul take a long, long time, / only time can help / and patience, and a certain difficult repentance'.

William Dickey wrote in 'Those Destroyed by Success' - 'The very large pasteboard replica of the general, / his medals pasted from his chest ... To be destroyed by success, I think / you do need to begin to believe / you can do anything and everything ... how dangerous it is to be right, and how / dangerous to be powerful, even in small things.' Under Action and Compassion Chinese poet Shu Ting speaks in 'Perhaps' 'for the loneliness of an author / Perhaps these thoughts of ours / will never find an audience ... Perhaps when all the tears have been shed / the earth will be more fertile ... Perhaps / Because of our irresistible sense of mission / We have no choice.'

Under Leaders and Politicians I found the authoritative message deep-rooted in Reg Saner's 'They Said' - 'They said 'Listen class attention before sorting / your blocks ... They said 'Democracy is at the crossroads everyone / will be given a gun and a map ... there is no need to vote' ... we colored it black and then wore our brass / stars of unit citation almost all the way home'.' Assuaging fears and building hope is evident in Polish poet Anna Kamienska's 'A Prayer That Will Be Answered' - 'Lord let me suffer much / and then die / Let me walk through silence / and leave nothing behind not even fear / Make the world continue / let the ocean kiss the sand just as before ... And let my poem stand clear as a windowpane / bumped by a bumblebee's head.'

A poet for all times, Edna St. Vincent Millay penned in 'Conscientious Objector' - 'I shall die, but that is all that I shall do for Death. / I hear him leading his horse out of the stall ... Am I a spy in the land of the living, that I should / deliver men to Death? ... the password and the plans of our city are / safe with me; never through me / Shall you be overcome.' Addressing practicing peace and justice, Norwegian poet Robert Hedin tells us, 'All people are children when they sleep. / There's no war in them then. / They open their hands and breathe / in that quiet rhythm heaven has given them ... If only we could speak to one another then / when our hearts are half-open flowers ... God, teach me the language of sleep.' There is wisdom to be found in these poems that speak to the soul from celebrated poets of the era.

Note: Opinions expressed in reviews and articles on this site are those of the author(s) and not necessarily those of BookLoons.

Find more NonFiction books on our Shelves or in our book Reviews