MARROW OF FLAME by Dorothy Walters


Poems of the Spiritual Journey
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A debut volume that centers on a mysticalsexual experience the author had during her first attempt at meditation. While she includes other subjects—great women in mysticism and the mystical experiences of other poets—her poems are of interest mainly for their dogged insistence on recasting this moment of kundalini ecstasy. Despite her protest that she has ``nothing to go on,'' Walters's poetry is in the unrhymed, shortline American style of Mary Barnard's translations of Sappho or Denise Levertov's essays on mind and responsibility. There is a difference, though: where Barnard assumes a forced economy of expression and Levertov insists on the low yield of her high ground, Walters gambles on interior fireworks. ``First it was a fire / shaken out of nowhere, / sheets of bluewhite, flashing / across expansions of light years'' she writes in ``The Creation.'' In ``The Woman Who Loved the God,'' it's also in terms of light: ``it swept through / their body's arc / like a wave of violet light / seeking a center.'' Fortunately, Walters declines to evangelize, preferring occasionally to offer directions like ``turn gently, and follow your breath / to the center of your being'' (``A Thousand Ways''). As a poet, Walters offers more of a charge than, say, Coleman Barks's versions of Rumi, although she does not approach the emphatic and receding paradoxes of Stephen Mitchell's Rilke. And to speak of the finest mystical poets in English—i.e., Blake, Smart, or Anne Porter—in connection with Walters would be a mistake. Still, there is a sure paraphrase of Blake in ``He Sees,'' a meditation on God's relation to the beautiful: ``We each must ask, / like Blake, / who loosed that beast / which stalks the savannah's green / and fastens his burning gaze / on the gazelle's expectant throat.''

A belated, elated debut.

Pub Date: March 1st, 2000
ISBN: 0-934252-96-3
Page count: 140pp
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15th, 2000


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