Review by Jacquie Herz of: Crow Songs by Jane Ellen Glasser




Perhaps you might consider this latest collection of magnificent poems by Jane Ellen Glasser to be a training manual for the ways in which, as you walk through life, you will learn how to allow yourself to be open and accepting of the world around you.

Divided into five sections, Glasser begins the first with a lesson on how to get the most out of a long walk. In the following sections, she goes on to show us how to appreciate the beauty in nature, the perils (and pluses) of aging, how she has come to love solitude, and finally, her brave and beautiful acceptance of death.

Because there is no way for me to show you, the reader, how wonderful Glasser’s words are, I’ve decided to quote my favorite lines for you.

Here is the first: In Instructions for a Long Walk, she tells us to:

Empty the storage house

in your brain

so that your senses

can fill with everything

that is not you.

Then, in Nature Unmasked, we envision, in language that is so vivid and evocative, exactly what Glasser has drawn for us.

a murder of crows,

free as the flapping

scarves of their wings,

sipped the wind

with opened beaks;

In Time’s Erasures, I love how Glasser begins with the erasures:

and memory stumbles

backwards through a forest

searching for bread crumbs.

But then, and perhaps because I can totally empathize with what Glasser is saying in this poem, I find her turning the erasures totally on their heads, so that only after the nonsense in our lives is erased, can we accept what pleases ourselves.

I am disappearing bit by bit,

cleaning house by getting rid

of tyrannical clocks, mirrors

with their facile judgments,

evicting boarders, Should

and Must, until the only one

left to please is me.

After describing the scenery she passes on her walk, Glasser ends her poem, Why I Walk Alone, with these lines:

Sometimes, images

transpose into words. I tuck them into

a pocket. If I’m lucky, when I’m home

they form themselves into a poem.

And in this: Requiem Twenty-Five Years Later

In memory of my daughter Jessica (May 18, 1974—May 24, 1996),

There was no time for tears

so she stored them in the reliquary of my heart.

I can’t help but imagine how full the reliquary of Jane Ellen Glasser’s heart is; how, along with the tears, it is full of love and beauty. And how lucky we are to be on the receiving end of all this glorious poetry.