Carla Scarano reviews ‘Scarlet Tiger’ by Ruth Sharman

 

 

The most recent collection by Ruth Sharman, Scarlet Tiger, Templar Poetry 2016, won the 2016 Straid Collection Award. It is dedicated to her father and to her son. It is a substantial collection, featuring fifty-nine poems divided in three sections. The first part is mainly about her father and their relationship; the second one is about her son and the last section is on butterflies and paintings, that is ekphrasis, descriptions of paintings in words.

References to butterflies and moths is a leitmotif that recurs all over the book. Her father used to collect butterflies catching them with a net, trapping them in a jar and finally piercing them with a pin to ‘fix a soft abdomen in place’. He clearly loved and enjoyed nature but had also an ambivalent attitude of caring for animals, that is he also trapped and killed them. This is never said plainly in Sharman’s poems, which often allude. Her poetry isn’t a straightforward kind of poetry (though she wittily says at the beginning of the first poem, By heart, ‘I want to get things straight’), it is a sort of ‘slant’ poetry. And maybe things are never easy to express in poetry and in life; they are often complex, hinted, interpretable, alluding to something else. The final sense often eludes us, slips away whenever we believe we are holding it.

She has a touching affectionate way of remembering her father, although never sentimental, especially during his last days. He couldn’t catch real butterflies any more, only paint them in faded watercolours, a sad, compassionate image of his losing grasp with reality. From her poems, his father emerges as a brave, tough person though helpless in front of death, a bit of a British stereotype: shy, awkward, complex; woods were his heaven and his final advice was to ‘beware strong emotions’.

Being Italian and an opera goer, I can’t help linking the theme of butterflies to Madama Butterfly by Giacomo Puccini, a story where the protagonist is exactly pinned down by social conventions and her desperate love for her deceitful husband. She is literally pierced in the final act when she commits hara-kiri. A beautiful butterfly caught in a fatal trap. So butterflies seem to be linked to images of women.

In another poem the poet compares herself to a moth:

I’m hovering like a moth (Dusk)
Differently from colourful butterflies, moths are
difficult to pin down in a book….
They’re pictures out of focus.
A reminder of otherness
and elsewhere, of only half
belonging in the world of light. (What is it about moths?)

 

The poem that titles the collection, Scarlet Tiger, is exactly about a moth who refuses to feed; a mutant, who takes its time to change then flies away. I couldn’t help linking it to an essay by Virginia Wolf, The Death of the Moth, where moths are described as ‘hybrid creatures, neither gay like butterflies nor sombre like their own species.’ She narrates him struggling against the approaching inevitable death and acknowledges there is nothing she can do to help. What Virginia Woolf particularly admires is the’ gigantic effort on the part of an insignificant little moth, against a power of such magnitude’.

Another recurrent theme is fire (After the fire and Tabula rasa), a real experience or a symbolic one (it doesn’t matter in the end) that burns the past, objects and memories, and leaves you dispossessed but lighter.

The poems about her son are cute memories of a mother observing how her child grows, learns and plays; sometimes his peaceful attitude is compared to a Buddha.

My favourite poem in this series is Curtains, a ‘slant’ poem again, where the thin ‘dark wine, wet sand’ sarong curtains ‘bought on honeymoon’ enwrap the baby like a womb, shading his quiet sleep, letting the light in, hinting to his conception and birth and to what came after:

We switched to blue velvet later
to block out the light
and the flesh-and-blood patterns hang

in the new house, in a room
that’s sometimes spare,
sometimes his dad’s, depending.

 

The poems of the last section, mainly about paintings, are evocative and graceful but less poignant  than the previous ones.

The last poem of the collection, Wishing tree, is a philosophical poem meditating on human beings and life:

longing to connect, longing
for answers from somewhere
beyond ourselves – never
quite at home in the moment,
the moment never enough,

 

Our shifting, ever changing kind of being is never completely happy or satisfied, even in our best moments. We don’t seem to be able to live in the moment plentifully, except in dreams or in fragmented instants rapidly shifting through time.

Scarlet Tiger is a collection of brilliantly crafted, subtle poems to be enjoyed till the last line.

 

 

Order your copy of Scarlet Tiger here: https://templarpoetry.com/products/scarlet-tiger

 

 

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Pravat Kumar Padhy

 

 

 

*
lunar eclipse
a moonflower
on my way

*
abandoned bench–
shifting of  shadow
of an autumn tree

*
a seagull
in its maiden journey–
sea to the sky

*
spider net–
the light captured
by mistake

*

 

 

Pravat Kumar Padhy’s literary work has appeared in various international journals and anthologies. His haiku won Vancouver Cherry Blossom Festival Honourable Mention, UNESCO International YearAward of Water Co-operation, The Kloštar Ivanić International Haiku Award, IAFOR Vladimir Devide Haiku Award,7th Setouchi Matsuyama International Photo Haiku Award and others.  http://PKPadhy.blogspot.com

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Carolyn Martin

 

 

*

late autumn places
a universe in my hands
a cup of hot tea

*

last night’s brown-crisped leaves
scudding down the cul-de-sac
autumn’s dry rain stick

*

the right to silence
after hectic winds disrupt
the first daffodils

*

through a telescope
the ragged mountain range shrinks –
twin peaks, scrub pine, shade

*

robins stethoscope
the lawn, earthworms hold their breath
spring battles begin

*

a hummingbird dines
on orange Crocosmia
I close my notebook

 

 

 

Carolyn Martin is blissfully retired in Clackamas, OR, where she gardens, writes, and plays with creative friends. Her poems appear in publications throughout North America and the UK including Stirring,  CALYX, Persimmon TreeHow Higher Education Feels, and Antiphon. Her third poetry collection, Thin Places, was released by Kelsay Books in 2017.

 

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Sonam Chhoki

 

 

 

spring notes
 

first thaw
dwarf rhododendrons
colour the slope

 

 *
spring offering
the path to the shrine
covered in primulas

 

 *

the sky’s scarlet rim
as if someone ordered it
lights up the pines
 

 *
gun metal sky
the Plough
faintly luminous

 
 

Sonam Chhoki finds the Japanese short form poetry resonates with her Tibetan Buddhist upbringing.  She is inspired by her father, Sonam Gyamtsho, the architect of Bhutan’s non-monastic modern education and by her mother, Chhoden Jangmu, who taught her: “Being a girl doesn’t mean you can’t do anything.” She is the principal editor and co-editor of haibun for the United Haiku and Tanka Society journal, cattails.

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Christine Taylor

 

 

 

*

fledglings leaving a robin’s nest broken

*

his car peals

out of the driveway

shattered ice

*

a frenzy of finches

at the feeder:

disquiet, here

*

prayers on

her pearl rosary

a frayed noose

*

a lone

hummingbird at the feeder

suddenly spring

 

 

 

Christine Taylor identifies as multiracial and resides in her hometown Plainfield, New Jersey.  She is an English teacher and wannabe librarian at a local independent school who often dreams of dragons.  Her work appears in Modern Haiku, 3Elements Literary Review, Menacing Hedge, and The Paterson Literary Review among others.  She can be found at www.christinetayloronline.com

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Patrick Deeley

 

 

North Mayo Haiku

 

 

Our latest clearing –

Nephin keeping its distance

travels with us still.

 

Wild roses, raindrops;

the stone quarry stands open

to blossom and fall.

 

A ditched toilet bowl,

a streamlet flowing through it

high on Sralagagh.

 

All the sun-shot geese

falling now on Annagh Marsh –

a child’s flamingoes.

 

Fern and celandine,

a mattress printing its own

celandine and fern.

 

A picnic’s leavings

around Rathlacken court tomb,

the bog closes in.

 

 

 

Patrick Deeley is from County Galway.  His poems have been widely published and translated.  Groundswell: New and Selected, is the latest of his six collections with Dedalus Press.  His memoir, The Hurley Maker’s Son, appeared from Transworld in 2016.

 

 

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David He

 

*

the winter sun

warms her bedclothes –

open window

*

rustling leaves

in the bare forest …

unwanted girl

*

snowflakes…

ducklings quack

about the lake

*

a crow’s feather

turned over by the wind

night glow

*

twilight settles

on the frozen river

her departing call

 

 

David He has been working as an advanced English teacher for 35 years in a high school. So far he has had twenty short English stories published in anthologies. In recent years he has had haiku published in magazines like Acorn, The Heron’s Nest, Presence, Rocket bottles, Frogpond, A One Hundred Gouges, Shamrock, First Literary Review-East , Modern Haiku,Frozen Butterfly and some international magazines. He has also had tanka published in Tanka of America,Skylark, Ribbones and Cattails.

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