REVIEWS AND ENDORSEMENTS for HOUSE OF THE UNEXPECTED - released by Wild Ocean Press in July, 2012
HOUSE OF THE UNEXPECTED:
Selected Poems of Julie Rogers 1981-2012
San Francisco, Wild Ocean Press, 2012
Reviewed by Neeli Cherkovski, noted biographer of Charles Bukowski and author of Whitman's Wild Children, From the Canyon Outward, and other books
This collection of work over three decades is a rhapsodic journey by a poet who has worked quietly, often in the woods, living on her own, pondering the elemental and taking from it the gift of words that hang out well together. The poet dwells on specifics with a sensibility that entices a listener to engage, yet there are no fire works, bold leaps, yes, but subtly placed. We discover a meditative soul in House of the Unexpected, one who has measured the language across a vision that powerfully, and with the skill only a dedicated practitioner of the seen can deliver: “I have thrown myself/ into a corner of my heart/and force myself to feel/what you must endure. . .” Such writing is profoundly moving. Rogers is able to walk in the woods, as she describes so doing, but is equally capable of awakening within herself. She captivates, drawing one in to her unique vision: “I can’t hide the burn/of my tongue twisting in bars between us.” All of the above is from “The Lie,” one of the shorter poems in a book filled with such insight.
In a little over one hundred pages there are many memorable passages, and always a keen sense of language that provides, as in “Last Call,” a kind of loud quietness, as one might encounter on an urban street at night -- it’s damp, and a few lights burn:
Hard night, the fog fogs up the window.
A trench coat creeps up street
in the light/dark beneath the lampposts.
Black coat on a hunched back,
done down at the corner bar.
Rogers has gone the distance, aware of the power in limitation, fascinated with how a few images might enlighten a much larger world. Her strength is in the condensation. As she draws on the meditative mode, her concentration produces exquisite paeans to the natural world, not surprising to find in a poet who has spent many years on her own out there “in the wild.” In “Proof of Life” she truly soars:
There is only this moment
Like a bird let go
in a cathedral
searching for the nest...
This is work trimmed-down, Zen-like, and the image is so deftly nailed. And this is where the poet is best. Her book is filled with such gems. One may think, not only of Zen, but also of ancient Chinese poetry as it strives for harmony with the rhythms of nature. Like them, this American poet, now emerging to a wider audience with the publication of a selected poems, reflects with awesome precision. In this book are pieces that many would fit into the category of nature poetry. true enough, but they are actually writings of deep consciousness, and if Rogers has communed amid the trees more than most in our urban age, she pays attention to the minute details. Her devotion is to seeing and to being here, present.
The river, a dream drifting
in slow, green sleep,
below the bugs and dragonflies
that race above its murky bed.
So, the “moment and memory” are talismanic signs. Read the words. Lean in on the marvelous silence that this writer brings to her voice, measuring time, taking the pulse of how we merge with the life around us. As a special gift, go to her love poems. Seek out the deep and florid passages that consume her and will entice a reader. We’re invited, no punches pulled.
Star streaks fire
melts the ground
hollows out the body
fills it with unspeakably open
love rushing in
in a nest of heat
consuming the dark
days awaiting your touch
as you ignite me.
Appreciation is the word. As Michael McClure writes of Julie, “no extra words.” Yes, and there is the key to this emerging poet. In documenting her love for fellow poet David Meltzer, she tells us, “I choose to live in your eyes.” We might want to cherish that thought as we all desire to live in the eyes of one whom we love. Come the with eyes open, with ears attuned to a poet who seeks nothing less than poetry’s true and endless heart-fulness.
I was on a Buddhist retreat in Oregon years ago, when I was hanging out in Julie's office at Tashi Choling. I saw a spiral bound book she had been working on. Being nosey, I opened it and saw that it was a book of poems. Why stop here, keep reading. My head and heart were moved so that I had to talk to her about that "bound book" over there, so I would feel free to read it with her foreknowledge. Her poems have a lyric beauty which bind the outer and inner landscapes. Her gift is rare amalgam of her life on the road as a Buddhist and mother living in humble surroundings. She lived in retreat at several holy places. Her life has been rich, filled with the spirit of a warrior. Reading poems from one of her books or from anthologies where she is published will make you seek more of her wonderful work as one of our finest younger poets.
-Latif Harris, editor of BEATITUDE GOLDEN ANNIVERSARY
Julie Rogers’ work really sings, swells, dimensionalizes in the head and heart long after it enters the body. A good resonance.
-John Brandi, author, poet and artist
ENDORSEMENTS for TORCH ~ WALKING THROUGH FIRE
“The path of practice is walked alone, but not in solitude. Companions matter, and can come in many forms. One of those forms is this book and its witnessing poems. Both lucid and heart-felt, Julie Rogers’ words travel – and illumine - the way.”
-Jane Hirshfield, editor of Women In Praise Of The Sacred, 43 Centuries of Spiritual Poetry by Women and author of The October Palace, Of Gravity and Angels, Alaya and translator of The Ink Dark Moon
“Julie Rogers brings an unusually sincere understanding of the basic nature of existence to her poetry. Believing in the truth of suffering she knows that this is not meant to be unapproachable and so she takes it as the necessary ingredient of life itself. Very passionate, she writes with awareness of her passion and inspires the readers to be decent human beings and at the same time to be aware of the trappings that Julie defines as her own shortcomings, personal experiences and triumphs. Her work has become well loved among the Buddhist communities that she is part of in Oregon and California.”
-Sangye Khandro – Light of Berotsana, translator of Yeshe Lama, A Garland of Immortal Wish-fulfilling Trees, Ancient Wisdom, Deity Generation, and Perfect Conduct
“The Lover as the Cosmos - the lover as a man, the body as Hell - the body as God, the quest to break the flesh bonds - the finding Soul within the flesh, the prayer to know one’s own death - the knowing immortality in one’s birth, the suffering to know “who I am” - the blessed escape from self. The voice of Julie Rogers is so pure, so unadorned with the usual poetic conceits it reads like the soul’s voice inside us all. Is there an articulated Buddhist Poetics? So many of the greats of contemporary American poetry speak from its practices. Here is still another stunning offering.`TORCH’ is “the alchemy of our darkness”. This “burning woman...dares the strip search, offers the opening heart.” And we are the stars watching her “deepen under the skin of the world.”
-Sharon Doubiago, winner of the Oregon Book Award For Poetry, author of The Book Of Seeing With One’s Own Eyes, South American Mi Hija, Hard Country, Love on the Streets, and My Father's Love
ENDORSEMENTS for LOVEBIRD
“I surmised, after reading Lovebird, Julie Rogers has made a dove out of a child before one’s very own eyes."
-Jack Hirschman, Beat Poet. former San Francisco Poet Laureate, author of The Arcanes, Endless Threshold and many other titles
“Lovebird” has been extraordinarily meaningful to me. In the way of good poetry, it changes the
way I feel about life and about myself. And it so beautifully illuminates that sacred space between
mother and daughter, easing that dreadful isolation we mothers sometimes feel at the same time…
what a wonderful writer. Thank you so much.”
-Suzanne Shellenbarger, writer for The Wallstreet Journal
ENDORSEMENT FOR CHRYSALIS
“These poems by Julie Rogers are skillfully and sensitively crafted. They reach deeply into the core
of her subject, with both a personal and objective eye, and are not afraid to confront the difficult and
tender topics of death, dying and bereavement. I found myself wanting to turn the page to read just
one more, and just one more, till the very end.
-Carolyn Askar, author of Spirit of Fire, A Unique Curve, Interpreting the Tree, Wilderness, and Home on the Wing and editor of Touching Margins, an anthology of poems for bereavement.
A Progression of Sight, Journey On A Penback - Selected Poems 1981 ~ 1991, Lovebird, Like an Echo (edited with Diane Taudvin), Dreaming with Mama, Street Warp
World of Change, Sparring with Beatnik Ghosts, Beatitude's Golden Anniversary (San Francisco Beat Poetry Anthology edited by Latif Harris and Neeli Cherkovski), Raising Our Voices ~ An Anthology of Oregon Poets Against the War, Like an Echo (co-edited with Diane Taudvin) and Hesperides Journal