The Return Message: Poems
Tessa Rumsey
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Buy *The Return Message: Poems* online

The Return Message: Poems

Tessa Rumsey
W.W. Norton
99 pages
May 2005
rated 4 of 5 possible stars
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Who can dispute the genius of an award-winning poet? It is impossible to measure such studied prose, delicately constructed, as each reader is led through a labyrinth of memory and emotion, triggered by the errant phrase, images juxtaposed by a thoughtful mind.

Might as well attempt to inhabit the mind of an artist, Vincent Van Gogh or perhaps Cezanne, the world of impressions, glimpses of grandeur, moments of joy and despair. No, such work as The Return Message can only be traveled alone, buffered by recognition, inspired by carefully constructed language.

For me, this particular book of poetry is like a Jackson Pollock painting, or the scattered notes of jazz: something familiar, sometimes dissonant, often obscure. A good number of the poems are quite long, filling the page with impressions, observations, shared intimacies, stream-of-consciousness in poetry form:

"You kill the morning with a jailbait hangover, and when your outside aches as much.
As your interior's hidden sadness, you cry until your vanquished metropolis shines...
And lo! You are lit up from the inside! A Jules Verne spaceship that cannot fly-" (Copperopolis)
There are recurring themes: spring, the beloved, blooming gardens, loss and renewal. And there are phrases that catch the eye and skewer the mind: "could you, like Audubon, kill your subjects./ To study them?" (New World Cloud Forest); "because you could not love the world enough to deny your desire" (Special Transmission Outside the Teaching); "Will a lost world spend its last days pleading for survival" (The Expansion of the Self).

Challenging form, this author scatters her words, thrifty, in few lines, or generous, in great bursts of language that tumbles down the page, periods and apostrophes in unexpected places. This book is outsized with a visually arresting cover, the layout reflective of the author's particular poems spread gracefully over the pages, often with only a few lines on the left-hand page, the right side weighted with the poet's musings.

This work must be mined carefully and read slowly, thoughtfully, a very personal statement by a woman whose world is strung with words like a necklace of precious pearls, an ever-changing universe of flagrant imagination, uninhibited.

Originally published on Curled Up With A Good Book at Luan Gaines, 2005

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