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Seattle Fling 2011

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Faces I Might Wear – Tanka by Carol Purington

After heavy rain  
   enough puddles on my path     
       to flash back at me       
            all the faces      
                I might choose to wear.
 

Faces I Might Wear

In her newest book of Tanka, Faces I Might Wear, Carol Purington opens with a poem that most of us can identify with. How often do we arrange our face based on the action or emotion of the moment?  How often d o  we imagine ourselves in someone else’s shoes? When I read these short and powerful poems I imagine a story behind a poem that seems balanced on the cusp of a significant event.
 
A line of geese  
       winging in the wrong direction
                  why
       I didn’t ask more questions
you didn’t give more reasons
 
A whole novel is implied in those few lines.  In her books of haiku and tanka there is often a narrative thread, even if it is the unfolding of the seasons on the family farm, as in Family Farm, but in this book each poem suggests a narrative. I came away from the book imagining the lives of the women of Woodslawn Farm.  Not that these stories are necessarily taken from specific lives, but capturing moments that many of us have experienced.  I thought this poem might refer to a broken love affair, but Carol said she was  thinking of those times, possibly a death, when someone is now beyond our reach. It is amazing to me that so few lines can carry such impact.
 
Tanka is an ancient five line Japanese poem form that is newly popular in the U.S. Unlike the more familiar three line haiku which concentrates on the natural world, Carol explains that the 20th century tanka is “expanding its range to include every aspect of human experience and all facets of life.
 
The lightness      
Of wings carved by faraway fingers
    flying to me
          on the lilt of a Russian folksong,
                this bird of happiness
 

Trees Bleed Sweetness

Carol Purington has written  other books with a strong narrative thread. The Trees Bleed Sweetness captures the voice of a native American woman from her childhood to grandmotherhood. Several of those poems were set to music by Alice Parker and performed at a Mohawk Trail Concerts performance in 2012.
 
Gathering Peace is Carol’s memoir of her inner life, mostly lived in the room that was once a parlor. Those walls have not contained her mind or spirit or talents. The world comes to her through her friends and family and her work.  Her poems have flown out into the world, winning awards, and  winning her friends like tanka poet Margaret Chula.
 
Carol has also collaborated with Susan Todd to put together Morning Song a wonderful anthology of poems for new parents.  When I bought a copy the saleswoman looked at the cover graphic of a baby’s foot print and said her children were too old so the book wasn’t for her. How old, I asked. Two and four she replied. I said that there was plenty of time for her to realize she needed the chapters on Wisdom and Courage.
 
 Carol Purington’s new book Faces I Might Wear is now available at Boswell’s Books and The World Eye, along with her earlier works. Every book is beautifully produced and a work of art in its own right.
 
 

3 comments to Faces I Might Wear – Tanka by Carol Purington

  • Thank you, Pat! I am so glad that your garden is so expansive and so embracing that it can frequently include some of the unheralded roses that bloom around us. Carol Purington is one of those non-horticultural gems of your garden. And you selected two perfect blossoms of poetry as examples. Bravo to you, and to Carol as well. And many thanks for tending a garden blog that delights year round. To your readers: Pat is absolutely right: buy the book! Consider it the “must have” of the season – a perennial favorite.

  • Pat

    Peter – Carol is indeed a gem that our whole community gets to enjoy.

  • Lisa at Greenbow

    I am glad you brought this author to my attention. Sounds like a good read.

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