Ricardo Nerenberg, in the journal Off Course, reviews A Poem Has Reason: A Story of Far Love
A Poem Has Reasons, Dos Madres Press, Loveland, Ohio, 2022, dedicated to Sarah’s mother, is both a collection of poems and a memoir, thus a fusion of two genres, a fusion that has a long history which some may start at Ovid’s Latin laments from exile, some even further back, but which for us, as readers of this stirring book, should begin with the troubadours of the 12th and 13th century, who wrote in Occitan, or Langue d’Oc.
Doesn’t it sound good that in those medieval times different Romance languages were designated by their word for Yes, suggesting (fallaciously, of course) that in their realms all was harmony and love? France was linguistically divided into two parts, the North, where Yes was oïl (whence the modern oui), and the South, where Yes was oc. The former comes from Latin hoc ille est (that’s it) and the latter from Latin hoc (this). Similarly, in the Inferno Dante calls his Tuscan country, “il bel paese là dove il si suona” (the beautiful land where the si sounds). Si, from Latin sic (thus, so). The tongue of Oc is now called Occitan; you can still hear it in Southern France if you go around looking for it; its closest Romance sibling is the now well-established Catalan. Occitan, the tongue of the troubadours, is paramount among Sarah White’s loves, and rightly deserves to be considered a far one, as in her subtitle, “A Story of Far Love.”