Ripples of Air: Poems of Healing
by Charlotte Digregorio
330 poems, 236 pages
Publisher: Artful Communicators Press
To Order: firstname.lastname@example.org
Also available on Amazon.com
Reviewed by Michael Escoubas
“I get discouraged when I encounter poetry that is supposed to be great poetry but is so
hard to understand that I give up after reading just a few lines.”
I frequently hear this among friends when I mention that I write poetry. I didn’t always
have an adequate comeback . . . until now. Today, I would introduce my sincere but
uninformed friends to Charlotte Digregorio’s new collection, Ripples of Air: Poems of
Healing. Packed into a mere 236 pages, fortunate readers encounter some 14 distinct
poetic forms. The volume contains something for everyone: from compact oriental forms
to sonnets, to the little known etheree, to fun forms such as acrostics and limericks, free
verse and more. It is all here, written in an accessible style for all to savor.
The book is arranged in 12 sections: Nostalgia, Peace, Creatures, People, Work, The
Heart, Seasons’ Potpourri, Solitude, Art, Wonder and Whimsy, The Spiritual, and Aging,
Illness, Death (these last three comprise one whole section). Each section is introduced
by a short narrative that provides background, context and life-application to the poems
that follow. Variety and mature craftsmanship showcase each section.
Like many readers, I tend to shortchange introductions to the books I review. Not this
time! The collection is subtitled Poems of Healing. For Digregorio, the introduction
becomes a vehicle for making her case for the entire book. Who among us hasn’t needed
healing? Who among us has not spent time in the cave of despair? Who among us hasn’t
needed an outlet for anger or loss? Who among us has not strolled through fragrant
gardens and longed for a way to express how it felt? Trust me on this one: spend quality
time on Digregorio’s six-page intro.
Writer Annie Dillard has noted, A writer is a professional observer. Dillard is referencing
more than simple visual interaction with subjects; she is saying that effective artists,
whatever the medium, must engage their craft with a heart of love. Digregorio could have
written that; she sees and feels everything more deeply and it shows.
In the “Nostalgia” section readers are invited to return to fond memories of childhood, to
people and places, sights and aromas now gone but re-experienced through poetry. Here’s
a nostalgic teaser which I share in full
On the prairie,
with faraway whistles
I feel the pipe waves,
pipe dreams of youth,
see the whale’s eye,
and coastal mountains.
Sunrise, my sacred place,
where sea touches sky,
steams my pores,
brushes my back
in the ebb
of another life.
What stands out about Digregorio’s work is her range of subjects. She is just as
comfortable, On the riverbank, [where] I sun my face / and listen to a singing frog // as
she is describing life in the city where, structures of glass, steel, and stone / stand in
defiance of sky, / rising through swollen clouds / from earth to eternity.//
In Section 4, “People” Digregorio reveals her sensitivity to the human condition, with
poems about the plight of the homeless, and those who risk everything by coming to
America, here are excerpts from Foreigner
He arrives in his fifties
from his native land
Soft gray eyes, a calm smile,
approaching a spring song.
As the poem develops…
He tells me today is
the best of yesterday,
something to remember
in twilight skies when
winds are with him.
Heightening the emotional effect of “People,” is an impressive array of modern haiku,
senryu and tanka which capture the poignancy of human interaction or, at times, the
despair of people in great need while the rest of us have plenty
at our thanksgiving table
i say grace, mindful of
the young man in the park
cocooned from hunger
face buried in his knees
I was delighted to encounter three Petrarchan sonnets in Section 5, “Work.” These
superbly crafted poems entitled respectively, “Seizing the Day,” “The Will to Write,” and
“Finding Peace,” breathe fresh air into common work experiences. I found it easy to
apply these poems to daily life.
As a confirmed introvert, I admit that I would rather be alone than in big groups of people
or hoisting drinks at parties. Maybe that is why Section 8, “Solitude” spoke so profoundly
to me. Notice the deep reservoir of images the poet draws from in Respite
White moon from my window,
sun-dried sheets, scented
with cedar and fir.
I lapse into a dream,
calls of a loon.
Branches bend on banks
of a runaway river,
clusters of evergreens,
cranes in deepening brown.
Night-walking the winding trail,
I spiral in wind through
a blaze of copper leaves
until gray wakes me to
the weight of a new day.
Readers need not be “religious” per se, to appreciate Digregorio’s poems in Section 11,
“The Spiritual.” No Bible-thumping here. With grace she uses the little known and often
under-appreciated “etheree” to usher her readers into the Afterlife
the summit. Seabirds
glide to meet me, from sand
to sublimity, lost in
cantatas of rippling refrain.
Lilac, lilies, and pale peach roses
perfume the dust of a marigold haze.
Editor’s note: Invented by Etheree Taylor Armstrong (1918-1994), this syllabic form
begins with one syllable and increases the syllable-count line-by-line through ten lines.
Just preceding Afterlife, the poet visages a woman’s last moments in a tanka your
reviewer has internalized as his own
how small her room
in which she lies bedridden
but how vast the sky
filled with blue
awaiting her arrival
THE DIFFERENCE IN THIS BOOK AND THE DIFFERENCE IT MAKES
Your reviewer would be remiss if he did not point out that Ripples of Air is different from
any poetry book he has reviewed before. More than a collection of poetry, Digregorio
offers practical, hands-on support for beginning as well as experienced writers. Treasures
to be unearthed in the 20 pages of back matter include: A comprehensive bibliography of
healing poetry collections, multiple lists of publications that publish poetry; ideas for
general print/broadcast media that feature poets; and ideas on types of associations,
organizations and businesses that promote poets through awards, interviews, readings,
speaking venues, workshop engagements, and exhibitions of their work.
As poets, we often think that writing our poems is primary (and it is), that said, are we
willing to put in the work and time necessary to promote and sell our product? Digregorio
helps us get off the sidelines and “into the promotional game.” WE NEED THIS BOOK!!
While I’ve provided no more than a gentle breeze in this review; hopefully, you have felt
just enough Ripples of Air, to make purchasing a copy of Charlotte Digregorio’s Poems
of Healing, the next important thing you do today.