- Kind: Perfectbound
- Pages: 84
- Language: English
- Published: November, 2013
- ISBN: 978-1-939929-05-1
Nancy Kassell’s new (and first) collection TEXT(ISLES) is mature, humane, truly learned. The poems, unique, accurate, beautiful, are a model of emotional intelligence. Their context is as multidimensional as life and history itself. They evoke the classical world–Horace, Ovid, Aeneas, myth revisited; they introduce a woman-friendly world especially in their focus on the significance and language of cloth, of sewing, of pattern and texture; they “translate” music (Brahms, Bach), painting (Klee, Soutine), art history; they explore sky, earth, water, cellular life; they evoke the centrality of love. Like the title, the poems fragment and reconcile the worlds they create. Myth and metaphor and “reality” are interchangeable—and fresh. It is no news, /that we have to reinvent ourselves/ again and again./ Unless we’ve already given up,/ the light over the drawing board/ is always on. (Architecture) There is reassurance in the scope and beauty of TEXT(ISLES), hope in its minutest details. —Sondra Zeidenstein
Many a green isle needs must be / In the deep wide sea of Misery, /
Or the mariner, worn and wan / Never thus could voyage on –(Shelley)
On this remarkable voyage, at once archetypal and deeply personal, every isle and shore is a text to be read, and every text a place to cultivate and dwell. From the opening “Reading the Georgics” where the maternal earth and the heavens are read for sowing, followed by “The Scarf,” recalling her mother’s love of color and design, Nancy Kassell leads us, past “Exile,” pilot, scholar, and rhapsode (Gr. rhaptein, to stitch), along the threaded rivers of language from the mythic past to her particular present. At once keenly intellectual and richly sensuous, these text(isles), whether paintings, music, translations, fables or fabrics are woven for our delectation. Here “words are always on the move” and “biology confirms myth.” “Green. A History” offers a paean to color. This exquisitely textured book will carry you to many green (text)isles on an amazing journey. —John Anson
Foremothers: Louise Bogan
I. The willows wreathed with golden feathers,
stone wall greening with moss,
a lawn set out in long measures—
Nothing in nature is dross.
While the suns sweep their course into darkness,
a woman’s eclipse is fast.
With her moon, she defies morbid starkness
and sings to make the day last.
II. Dear Louise,
Arguments and anecdotes
oiled by gin, basted with bernaise.
Character was will,
and poet, you wore a persona the way
Marianne wore her three-cornered hat.
O, as with arm and hammer,
Still it is good to strive
To beat out the image whole,
To echo the shout and stammer
When full-gushed waters, alive,
Strike on the fountain’s bowl
After the air of summer.
you would speak only the Elizabethan absence
Modernism scattered us like autumn leaves.
You should see our enclave now—forthright
women at every window and door.
“No public intimacies,” you say.
Not any more.
I keep hurling my aging against
the Cyclone fence of my conviction:
the force of making love abets
the making of poetry and vice
versa, if you allow an abstraction
to speak bodily—to breathe, to conceive
Nancy Kassell (b. 1936, Albany, New York) earned a Ph.D. in Classics from the University of California-Berkeley. She taught Greek and Latin languages and literatures at the University of Pennsylvania, Boston University, and UMass-Boston, and published articles on Horace and Ovid. She is also the author of a feminist cultural study, The Pythia on Ellis Island. Rethinking the Greco-Roman Legacy in America.
Kassell turned to writing her own poetry some twenty years ago. Her poems are forthcoming in Speaking for my Self: women poets in their seventies and eighties (Chicory Blue Press), and have been published in the anthologies Verse and Universe. Poems about Science and Mathematics and Family Reunion. Poems about Parenting Grown Children, and in literary journals (Notre Dame Review, BORDERLANDS, Eclipse, Willow Springs, Salamander and others).
She is also the author of essays in The Road Retaken: Women Reenter Academe and When a Lifemate Dies and in the New York Times. She was a founding member of The Writers’ Room of Boston. She lives in Brookline, Massachusetts.