Sections of verse, meditations and memoir consider nature, travel and spiritual experience.
In the introductory material to this collection, Schwartz (Beyond Time and Space, 2009) presents some “memoir snapshots” centering on a telegram her family received just after World War II from Lily, a distant cousin in Hungary: “ ‘I regret to inform you that mother and father, my brothers and sister, your cousins and uncle have all perished. I am the sole survivor. Please help.’ ” The family was unable to trace her; the telegram took three months to arrive. From these haunting words, Schwartz imagines letters between herself and a rediscovered Lily, now both old ladies. Hopefulness is the key note in the various sections, including the more than 100, mostly short, poems. The first section, “Landscapes of the Mind,” includes verse on interior experience; “Local Landscapes” turns to nature and place; “Oceanscapes,” to the sea; “Distant Landscapes” reflects on travels; “Tributes and Celebrations” includes elegiac and occasional poems; and “Prayers and Meditations” consists of contemplative verse. Rhyme, meter, repetition and other wordplay give these poems a whimsical quality, as in “Life is Full”: “The learning, yearning has / time to germ innate and grow. / Next lifetime will see it whole.” Many pieces, though, lack a sense of conclusion, sometimes depending on repeated lines to stand in for significance. Some verses are obvious and/or clichéd: Sea gulls “are the victims / of the world we despoil!”; “I stand on the shoulders of giants. Thanks to them, / I can reach for the stars”; “The smile, the eyes, the voice are windows / to the soul.” Others read more like journal entries or blog posts than poetry: “This pharmacopeia, the rainforest, contains / it all: modern medicines in their ancient form, / and some we don’t yet know.”
The writer’s optimism comes through, but the verse leaves little impression.