The title of this poetry collection by Marjory Heath Wentworth is as aptly chosen, as precisely picked, as delicately distilled, as every other word she has written in these 88 pages. The Endless Repetition of an Ordinary Miracle is a line that comes from Snow by Orhan Pamuk, a novel that is also miraculous in its ordinary, that is, every day beauty and truth, caught on paper. There is no other, and no more perfect, way to describe this collection. Like snowflakes, every poem is unique. Like snow, every poem has its ordinary repetition that we have seen again and again and again. Like snow, these poems are each a little miracle, nonetheless. We have seen snow. We have never seen snow just like this. We have witnessed an ordinary miracle, and we are snowed over.
Many of Wentworth’s poems are as if through the eyes of a wondering child, still capable of seeing the magic in the world, standing at its center with great eyes, open hands and heart, observing it all in remarkable detail and with that rare and exquisite ability to share it with the rest of us, so the blind, too, may see.
beyond clusters of dark birds hovering
at the edge of sky the wind bends yellow
tipped marsh grass rippling around a rim
of sand uninterrupted waves spilling
one on top of the other as everything
spins into salt into sunlight
houses rise like castles built on sand
each home an alchemy of conquest
fire hope for there is more….
(from “Spring Island, South Carolina”)
Wentworth writes about her home, several homes, and her life and family, her history, streets she walks, and cemeteries she visits, of winter rain and the sea and cried tears and stopped clocks, of giving birth and growing up and growing old and senility and disease and death. Every day things that each and every time are miracles, and she has the artistry to preserve the quality of miracle.
Outside of home horizons, Wentworth takes on world matters, too, of slavery and genocide and war, bringing these immensities, too, into the small shapes that we, the readers, can hold and contemplate and absorb. “In Gaza’s Berry Fields” is such a poem, taking on the immense theme of a mother losing her seven sons in Israeli military fire. A mother’s love is a miracle, too, perhaps none greater, and we feel it fully, as we join the poet to watch this woman gathering the ripped apart limbs of her boys and holding them against her. It is horrific, so horrific, beyond imagination. Yet, Wentworth captures it fully. One moment, the boys are picking strawberries in the field with her, children playing in the sun. The next, “something hot passes overhead” and she is instead gathering a head, an arm, a leg, kissing each part, each piece, the blood seeping through her dress as she gathers the limbs. If for no other poem, I would buy the book just to have this one poem as a reminder of miracles. I won’t pull lines from it here, because it is so tightly woven, it won’t come apart at any corner.
In many of her poems, Wentworth writes with pauses, leaving spaces between words, as if she is conducting music, and the silence between the notes is needed for her precise rhythm. Or she will use the pauses to place random thoughts, as thoughts always are, wandering from tangent to tangent, picking up a thread here only to next slide over there. Wherever she goes, in whatever direction, Wentworth is a poet to note, and to read, and to stand alongside to see the world again, as if for the first time.
Wentworth is poet laureate of South Carolina. Her poems have appeared in countless books and magazines, nominated for Pushcart Prizes. This is her third collection, published by Press53, increasingly an independent press to watch closely for those who read only the best of the best in literary arts.
~for The Smoking Poet
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