On reading Judy Katz-Levine’s "The Everything Saint"

Concision in poetry is probably its most difficult quality: the ability to say more in less. To preserve the transformational oeuvre of poetry with straight-forward everyday language is as tricky as hitting that perfect descriptive mark but without pretense, which is what Judy Katz-Levine does in The Everything Saint (Word Poetry, 2018). The book has the quality of a journal in which the author is describing events of her life, mostly memories and feelings with a wise and wistful gentleness, and intimate visuals, that invites us into her puzzles and questions.

In the poem “With A Shout” (p47), the first and second line show the power of the poet’s transformative talents:

 

“We are receiving faces of snow.
Then the happiness we feel engenders the most infinite face…”

 

Taken too literally, the sentences make no sense, but those “faces” seen as vast expanses of snow seen through personification, transform an ordinary snowy landscape into molds and mounds, shapes that become a reflection of selves, even of god. The poem continues:

 

“… All along
we run and limp and run again.
Then the fingers open like birds of paradise—”

 

The poet here is playing with the impression of snow, bringing us back to our senses, the cold felt through an open palm. She creates a hot and cold sensation with the beautifully contrasting images of cold and tropical weather through the specifics of snow and a tropical tree shaped like a hand. It is the unlikeliness of those images together that takes us to the sensation. Her sentences are sometimes more like photographs and further the shared experience of author and reader as correspondence, as if she is giving you reference points:

 

“a saxophone shouts
and clapping and singing provide
alternate highways.”

 

The entire book is crafted by such impressions. In the poem “Springing of You” (p49), the quick anaphora produces humor and makes the title reverberate before the poet beautifully transforms a thought into fresh air:

 

“Springing of You
The springing of you is likely to produce in me a line of
thought which doesn’t dissipate but roves over dandelion
weeds and early spearmint blossoms.”

 

In the poem “Spring Text Flower” (p100), she transforms a casual lonely night into a poetic and sensual experience:

 

“Night sweeps down a soulful eye
there came a teaching from the wind
my fingers tremble as grass.”

 

I loved reading the book. It was a lesson in sensibility to me and I look forward to reading more from the author.

 

 

Darryl Wawa

Darryl Wawa is a Port-au-Prince born Haitian-American who studied Photography and Creative writing. He enjoys chocolate and good books. That said, maybe a movie is a good book. He loves to work with images and words and their pairing.

 

Edited for Unlikely by Jonathan Penton, Editor-in-Chief
Last revised on Friday, January 25, 2019 - 12:01