Poems of the body and the spirit, coupled with paintings in vivid color.
Robbins (Love Like This, 2005) returns with a new collection of poems both mystical and plainspoken. Carnal and cerebral free verse meditations, exhortations, and brief narratives on relationships, loss, and transcendence fill these pages. “You will have / no idea if it is / sexual or spiritual” says one speaker about a religious awakening, and indeed, the poet often associates these two concepts. One short poem, “They Danced in the Trees,” exemplifies this: “The woman and the beast / sailed quietly from tree to tree / causing joy juice/ to rain down through / the forest.” Verses such as “After 35 Years” and “They Were Married” take readers through many years of a relationship over several pages, taking fair note of everyday banalities even as they celebrate the deeper forces that run beneath them. There are elegies here and poems of travel (to Japan, to Mexico) and celebration. Robbins intersperses images of his paintings throughout his verse—chaotic shapes combining the fauvist brushwork of French painter Georges Rouault with the summery palette of American artist LeRoy Neiman. Their human or animal figures occupy a world that often resembles a description in one of the poems: “a riot of violent color / in a garden gone wild.” The author has a tendency, here and there, to resort to clichés; one narrator says that Kali’s dance will “burn me to a crisp,” for example, and Robbins writes in the introduction that “Entering the creative process is like diving into a rushing river.” But just as often as readers encounter such careworn phrases, they also confront the author’s unique language: spiders weave their webs “in the armpits of the trees,” or “the cold sub-zero air slapped his face like an old woman.” Readers won’t be able to help but feel the contagious energy of these images and words.
Lively verses about love,
death, and all that lies in between.