is up on
for a foreign writer, visiting
You sat yesterday on my balcony.
Untrimmed, the magnolia's leaves
wreathed your head, and a bee
examined your words as if visas.
I served you melons and wine,
you spoke of mangoes and palms,
a child throwing stones at a plane,
of pear-tree roots gripping a tomb.
You've flown across half the earth,
explored and lectured, praised, criticized
as instructed before you set forth.
We told our stories, kissed and cried.
Alone, still breathless this morning,
I note a spider skein the cat ignores
in the slant of sun, guyed from this worn
wrought-iron chair to your chair.
Review of GUY WIRES Washington Independent Review of Books July 2015 Exemplars:
Poetry Reviews by Grace Cavalieri
Guy Wires by Elisavietta Ritchie.
This is Ritchie's best book, I think, and she's written more than 20 of them. There's a surprising group of poems in the section EXPLORATIONS in the voice of Cecilia (whose notes were apparently found in an old shopping bag, unless it is a Ritchie trick) and they're terrific. Once Cecelia was a dancer with an "ermine muff" and we watch her decline into homelessness but not without ebullience. "Cecelia Writes A Letter To Her Heart" ends, "So I will dance till sunrise, jog up Everest — / keep up with me if you can. Please try."
Ritchie's title poem is about a foreign visitor, a writer. It begins, "You sat yesterday on my balcony…I served you melons and wine, / you spoke of mangoes and palms, / a child throwing stones at a plane…" She ends with the emptiness of the next day, "Alone, still breathless this morning,/ I note a spider skein the cat ignores/ in the slant of sun, guyed from this worn/ wrought-iron chair to your chair." This poem is emblematic for the book shows a life entertaining international writers and artists, sitting with each as if he/she is the only person of interest to the speaker.
Born to a Russian émigré father, several poems show enormous attention to that ethos. She has a poem about Mandelstam who suffered poverty, censorship, eventually prison and death during the reign of terror. She speaks of sisterhood with Russian dissident Anna Akhmatova; she has a prayer from Tatyana; and she muses on Solszenitzen's fate. These are powerful comments on the unjust plights of nonconformist poets and writers in many lands.
Also there's an arranged society that emerges covering the gamut from the wealthy and learned to the homeless. "On My Own" is a two-page poem about the daily endurance of a homeless man, subtitled "Water in the Coffeemaker Frozen," ends "But Monday a kindly old-timer forgot a crushed box of doughnuts/ with icing! In my sleeping bag, warm with both cats, I'll eat my/
fortuitous bounty, read my overdue books, if ink and fingers/thaw, write my own…So I am, I exist, alive."
World travel from Hong Kong to Morocco cuts through the poetry landscape projecting a person of the world but Ritchie shows a different set of investments. She sees every city or country as a challenge facing the writer to find the fusion of culture and what's traceable to convert to poetry. What informs her is causality and how it'll turn on the page. The book is well organized into five sections and it's a good thing because this is a comprehensive book covering the waterfront of a life well lived. We needed infrastructure to hold it captive.
Ritchie makes demands upon herself; she explores questions about animals; she reveals the system of checks and balances in love and relationship. She takes the mundane and makes it public art. This is a plentiful book filled with gratitude for the world. She comes from a different place than many new to the art. She's not market driven. She sees poetry as an acceptable use of force. She's done it all.
Cecelia Tackles the Avenue Again
Must extricate this coat, fragrant with camphor,
forty years old, bought at a thrift: gray herringbone,
finest wool, same button gone, same pocket holes.
Falls to my heels! I've…shrunk. No matter. It and I
worked then, will still…A bright orange scarf a flame…
Nobody else wearing coats in this wind. Pneumonia weather!
How noisy now these crowded streets where I'd meet
my lovers at street corners, corner cafes — those days, they paid.
These men today might have been my lovers then…
Now scruffy as curs…they shuffle and limp…Hair
grayed or gone, they've changed shades, or vanished…
Then one man holds the door of a new café
where I remember a tavern. So I smile, enter…
And he disappears.
GUY WIRES can be ordered from www.poets-choice.com and Amazon