This week, I’ve had the dual pleasures of reading Sailing by Ravens, by Holly Hughes, and The Pen and the Bell, by Hughes and Brenda Miller–the first, a woman’s journey on the ocean and in life; the second, a map for living and writing, steps be taken slowly, deliberately, with attention.
Sailing by Ravens explores navigation–across oceans and life, through the heart’s calms and storms. The precision of charting pairs with Holly’s precise language. And it’s a physical book–the language moves. Consider this, from “The Navigational Fix”:
I spread the divider’s metal legs,
measure degrees in seconds, minutes, hours,
gauge speed made good, prick one small foot,
drag its lead twin in an arc, an easy pivot.
Holly takes us with her, places us there on the deck. I felt the boat, I felt the fish, I felt the quite some evenings–I even felt fish-smelly and cold. In all the concrete details, these poems voyage through metaphor–the maps, the knots, the rough seas moving from time together to growing older, growing apart. A witnessing, a sadness–and yet a celebration, a joy to read again.
Here is one of the prose poems from the book:
As in the line that runs between a tug and its tow, its thrumming pull. The lines of the schooner that made you swoon. Spiderweb, its taut, rain-beaded strands. Empty hammock, nail paring, cantaloupe rind. As in narrative arc. I want to be flexible, at least in theory. You never imagined yourself a rigid person. As in spiderweb, unstringing. As in bright arc of rind as it sails out the galley window. As in wake made by the schooner, leaving.