Kenneth "Fog" Gilbert's review of Gwendolyn Jensen's poetry
Gwendolyn Jensen’s poetry reminds me of another Gwendolyn (Brooks). As in her first offering, Birthright, Ms. Jensen’s poetry takes us on a journey of life---from birth, as in “The Wedding Picture” when the poet asks the mother, “Why did you leave so soon?/ I must have hurt you being born/ I’m sorry if I made you cry.” Already we see a maturity about life and pain and this is only the conception.
It is something like conceiving poems...a certain amount of pain goes into each poem, whether it is birthing the poems within the mind, or the pain suffered before the poet became pregnant with the inspiration to write.
And then there is “Money,” the poem that reminds us all of when we were young and we would listen to the adults tell us of how it was long ago...in the olden days how scarce money was, songs of the Great Depression (as my dad used to talk about as I listened attentively). Life was hard then, and it is a different kind of hard now, “a way of walking where there is no path, a growing place, the tip of a fingernail, the froth at the edge of the universe.” And as we grow that universe grows along with us like in “A Car has Summer in it” where the possibilities lend themselves to “a boy” who can “flit full-footed, nimble through the streets...passing car to car, open, wide, and shared.”
At times we all share”The Gift” and find that “scent is his (or ours) to spin into/ a ludic wild. a ludicrous/ and random joy,” we feel until, as the poem “Life Lesson” teaches us, there is “the line between a skin of wind---/a wrongful thing so lightly winged...the harder place, where things stick fast/ you can no longer shore against them.” It’s all part of that journey, isn’t it?
In her poem “Office” there are references about”how it used to be,” and now we see the child growing up to the point where he is starting to recall when that started happening to me---growing up? growing old?
In “Retirement,” we see the boy as an old man who had “worked and lived largely on this earth.” And now those new children are listening to us, and we have come to the autumn of our journey and have stories to tell.
The themes in so many of Gwendolyn’s poems simply but eloquently deal with life, from our beginnings to our ends. And she does it so beautifully with her smooth phrasing, exhilarating metaphors and comforting lines that etch deep into our sub-conscious, reminding us that the poet tells it best. As Plath often said, “Readers want to know from someone who has been there” someone with the experience to really show how it was and is.
In this book, Jensen also gives us a delightful selection of poetry by some German authors that she so deftly translates into English for our enjoyment. A voice among voices, Gwendolyn takes us on that “number 1 bus, from Dudley to Harvard Square...(where) we are all homeless there”---to places we can understand and relate to until that bus “kneels to let some of us go.”
I highly recommend we buy that token and get on this bus---looking out the window we will see many reflections of ourselves—it is a journey into our lives, our minds, our spirits, “As if toward Beauty” “to the times that are ample” and amply described by this wonderful poet.
jacob erin-cilberto (author of Intersection Blues)