Reviews of IN THE SHADOW OF PARADISE, released February 01, 2017 from FutureCycle Press
The poems in Jane Ellen Glasser’s latest book, In the Shadow of Paradise, are astounding— as well as beautiful and psychologically insightful. Only a mature, accomplished poet who has fearlessly faced what life gives—and takes—could write the poems in this book that will pierce and heal you, as in “The Siren and the Poet”:
“So like this Muse of the Lower World/ the poet sets sail across time’s turbulent seas/ to discover, in spiritus, the right music and/ words to connect beauty, love and death.”
There is no bitterness; there is tenderness for the moments of light midst the darkness of remembered death. As she wanders the Japanese garden in “Morikami Gardens”:
“Past the giant Buddha, serene/ in reclining layers of stone flesh,/ I came to a memorial garden/ where skippers and swallowtails/ fluttered above lavender phlox.// their nervous wings landed/ and lifted quickly as if pleasure/ could only be granted in tiny sips.”
The poems in this carefully sequenced book have delightfully wry humor, relationships in all their pleasure and messiness, courage, aging with the under pinning of a rich and varied life, appreciation for imperfection as a blessing because of the possibility for growth, and again: courage.
I have long admired Jane Ellen Glasser’s impressive books of poetry, but this may be her best. In “The Visit” she ends the poem:
“Meandering roads edged/ in goldenrod, hawkweed,/ my eyes climbing trees,/ trees climbing mountains… // Drunk on clean air, how could I leave a place/ that said to me, Stay!// But I was only a visitor/ as I am in all my dreams.”
And so we are, as visitors with her, transported into beauty and gently brought back to the reality of our impermanence.
Yet, my heart leaps as I am with her in the last stanza of “A Brief History”:
I found myself—/ a woman/ alone/ on a mountaintop/ dancing naked/ beneath the tipped/ smile of a moon/ and the winking stars.”
Here there is such vividness and energy—startling and honest! For young and old, male and female, this profound book of joy, as we are in the Shadow of Paradise, shows a way to live more fully.
--M. J. Kledzik
author of As if Wine Could Pour from Her Nipple
In the Shadow of Paradise, Jane Ellen Glasser’s seventh collection, is predicated on the power and meaning of the ekphrastic gaze. And oh, what power and meaning this book brings to the canon of its own art form! At turns enigmatic, ecstatic and elegiac, the poems are lyrical, intensely intelligent examinations of renowned paintings and sculptures, timeless mythologies and fairy tales, and deeply felt spiritual beliefs that reveal, like Mona Lisa’s chapped lips, that imperfection is perhaps more compelling than flawlessness, that “every scar/is the shorthand/of an important story.” Throughout the five sections of Paradise, Glasser invokes the masters of various schools, from Kahlo to Monet and Rilke to Sartre, and sets her insights against the backdrop of her adopted South Florida’s Edenic foliage, where the rustle of birds of paradise are as “soothing as waves/receding/on a foam-tatted shore.” If Glasser comes to any conclusion from her relentless questioning of what it means to live surrounded by the near-utopian beauty of such lush nature, which is easily the Muse for her as it is for so many artists, it’s that it could also end “the way fire loves itself to death.” Regardless, in the moment of observation, “You are the viewer. You are the dreamer.” So, too, you should be the reader of these expertly crafted, tautly imagistic, and deeply invaluable poems
.—Jen Karetnick, author of The Treasures That Prevail
"I am overwhelmed, almost breathless from a morning spent with “In the Shadow of Paradise.” I know these poems, but gathered together under Rousseau’s eye, so to speak, I re-enter each with wonder. Skill, experience, opposites united with lushness, I feel at the end as if I’ve traveled with the poet through layers of a life fully lived."
--Mary Ruffin McCue, author of Raising the Blinds
"With poems ranging from philosophical reflections to verbal snapshots of the world around her, Jane Ellen Glasser’s latest collection is a revelatory romp through the fertile mind of a master poet. Infused with pathos and occasional humor, these accessible poems celebrate the wonder of art, mythology, nature, and womanhood while dipping into every emotion of the human palette. There is gloom—“The wind knows nothing / about loneliness. Always / it has its arms around something.”—and joy—“the man behind them, / his hair alive as wings, /his lips thrown back”—and, above all else, the confidant contentment of “a woman / alone / on a mountain top / dancing naked / beneath the tipped / smile of a moon / and the winking stars.”
—Bill Glose, author of Half a Man and winner of the 2016 Missouri Humanities Council Award for Veteran’s Poetry
Jane Ellen Glasser’s poetry has often been a meeting place for the visual artists of the world, from the famous to the relatively obscure. So. If one is inclined, one can augment his or her experience of her work by googling such as Rubens, Cattelan, Hesselgrove, Monet, Chagall, Picasso, Delvaux, Wipf, Watts, Rivera, Kahlo, and Rousseau—many of whose works suggest truths Glasser is expert in capturing in language.
Which is not to say she only finds truths in painting. Fact is, she also finds them in her biography, her backyard, her house, her marriage, in her fingers, etc. She’s known to crack the stone to get the sermon.
Mimetic sermon: There is heaven in resignation.
they let the river’s tongues soothe their edges.
Backyard revelation: Words can float.
…here he is
a soloist, rooster of the skies,
loosening his six-note aria …
this is the way
a poem writes itself,
note by solitary note
on the prevailing air.
Biography: rebirth into nothingness. Everything is ok.
Doused in light
these white blooms
through narrow sheaths
as I am now
It feels good to fade
at day’s end, to be happily empty
Finger: Conversational and initially playful, the poem progressively hardens until at last the truth arrives with a bang, bringing horror.
They call me names: baby, runt,
tag along. They say I am affected,
daintily raised for sipping tea.
What do they know of manners!
Teamed they become barbaric,
disparaging utensils. Linked
with another’s pinkie, I alone
swear to keep agreements. Once,
a broken promise meant amputation.
Let them try living without me!
Marriage: In opposition to the harsh male metaphor ending this piece, the first two lines are childishly soft, making exciting use of Glasser’s ever present sensitivity to clashing rhetorics.
who would rather romp barefoot
with the rabbit and the red fox
than be cracked open like a mollusk
to let Apollo in
There is a muscularity in Glasser’s intellect that makes her revel in pointed metaphor, but she does not deal too much in symbol or often let an image do all the talking; nor is she overly decorative, or prone to promote sound above her other virtues. She is often, however, able to make you laugh as she drives her nails.
When we’re in bed,
would you get upset
if my cat
snoozles on my chest?
Quite frankly, there’s nothing
you can do about that.
When I first met Jane forty-three years ago, I thought she was the best poet in Hampton Roads. Twenty years later I thought she was one of the best poets in Virginia. Today, I recognize that I have underrated her at every step. This collection of new works is hardly in the shade of paradise but surely part and parcel of. Here are some excellent lines to memorize:
spills into mine
a lighthouse blinks story after story
has a life that keeps going
and goes nowhere? I threw off
the heavy saddle, the bridle, the reins.
—Robert P. Arthur , author of Hymn to the Chesapeake
Reviews of CRACKS, released March 11, 2015 from FutureCycle Press
“Cracks, a new chapbook by Jane Ellen Glasser, is astonishing for its freshness. Musical and witty, its predilections ranging from Sartre and Greek myth to a singing dove and two Labs, all rendered with accuracy and deep feeling. Hope rises here, as in the title poem: 'Each crack / is a door opening / onto a larger room.' ”
"The title and the opening quote by Leonard Cohen, 'There is a crack in everything/ that's how the light gets in,' are absolutely perfect for this little book by Jane Ellen Glasser. The poems are deceptively simple, such as "What She Longed For," which is a series of fragmented sentences. It begins, 'To slip out of her past/ the way an unzipped dress/puddles to the floor.' Glasser is a consummate artist, in her surprising metaphors and similes, in what she says and what she does not say. Think of 'a roadside intoxicated/with poppies' in 'For the Love of Certain Spaces.' Sometimes the clue to the poem is in the title, and the poem is filled with wonderful, specific detail. I want to quote everything, and read Cracks again and again."
Jane Blue, author, Blood Moon
"Frequently brilliant, not only as poetry, Cracks explodes language into rainbows of light and meaning. I held my breath. The applause you hear is the sound of Jane Ellen Glasser being recognized as one of the finest poets in America. Her work has always had beauty and muscle; now it’s growing in ways impossible to define."
Robert P. Arthur, author, Black Gum Against Thunder
"Jane Ellen Glasser writes with an artist’s eye and heart, alive to the 'moon’s watermark / on a brightening sky,' 'a shoreline’s give and take / over which a pelican / pulls a strong of pelicans.' This book celebrates contentment: 'Don’t give me / perfection,' she writes, pleased to be 'happily flawed … human.' Like all of Glasser’s poetry, these new pieces are sure-handed and moving. But when love comes out of a seeming nowhere like a slow-developing sheet / of film,' the surprise stretches her lines, simile upon gorgeous simile, into a sonnet of easy, fully felt eloquence. Cracks will reward reading after reading!"
Jay Paul, poet, The Last Monument
Jane Ellen Glasser is a true artist in every sense of the word. True to herself, her writing and mostly true to her readers. Her newest poetry collection, titled "Cracks", dedicated to "her greatest creation", her daughter Hara, is one of the most moving and profound group of poems that you will ever read. Jane has been writing for her entire life and she is good! A seasoned writer Jane writes from experience and she's been there. In "Now That I Am Old", she writes, "No one escapes the indifferent flame, earth's hunger. Open the gates of the asylum, the prison. I will take my chances." You will not be taking any chances reading her work. Her work is brilliant, witty, fresh, lyrical, moving and Jane paints a vivid portrait of life as it is and as she perceives it. I cannot say enough good things about Jane's writing, she moves like a sleek shadow between the realms of reality and dreams. In the closing poem of "Cracks" she writes, "Let me live again to mine the earth in the belly of a worm." It doesn't get any better than that!
Charles Lyonhart, Songwriter and Performer
Jane Ellen Glasser looks at life so clearly--with honesty and originality. This gives a sense of newness and youth, yet with the wisdom of a thoughtful, grateful, and wise woman. Seneca wrote, "As long as you live, keep learning how to live." These poems show how she does this!
Mary-Jean Kledzik, poet
Imagination and reality marry one another in this quiet but powerful collection of poems. Throughout, the language is fresh, sometimes riveting. Glasser looks at a painting, "Still Life in Blue," breathes on it and we feel a life going nowhere. She writes about happiness, a snapshot of ordinary pleasure, but the reader sees "the prow lifting and lifting" "the hair alive as wings" and, too, the pull of enlargement. You can read these poems over and over and feel the strength and insight of one of today's finest poets. "Yellow fists/of spatterdock," "a solitary cabin/behind a scribbling stream"....Gorgeous.
Mary McCue, poet, "Raising the Blinds"
I've just finished reading "Cracks." All of my life I have been trying to extract your messages from poets like Keats, philosophers like Sartre and the Greeks. Only Brahms' violin concerto has touched me as closely as your poetry.
Reviews of THE RED COAT
"This beautiful, poised book of poetry by Jane Ellen Glasser is a raft taking us upstream and down, but like the title of one poem, 'A river would never insist,' she doesn't jump the bank of the reader's life, preferring instead to trust the alchemy of 'moon, tide and weather.' A superior imagination, superior intelligence and superior skill with language are the bones of each poem in The Red Coat.
The strength of Glasser's metaphors and images are often startling. We can feel the poet's compassion for even a homely lizard and her respect for all life in 'Garbage.' Saving it from drowning, the speaker tips a rain-pooled garbage can, and the lizard is released, 'out, out out/ a green bullet/ onto the heaven/ of wet grass.' Here is a poet who believes in the inter-connectedness of all things. A fire burns, everything is loss. Yet, 'From nowhere a cardinal blazes/ a red gash on a black canvas.'
Part philosopher, part artist and all poet she guides us like a muse through art galleries. Who wouldn't want to jump into the canvas of Manet's Dejeuner sur l'herbe 'one shimmering afternoon' or swirl around the dance floor in Botero's 'The Dancers'? The images leap off the page into our laps.
Only a muscled soul could write of love and aching loneliness in a way that breaks the heart open. In 'Dolor of the Abandoned House,' a house abandoned by its long-time owner swoons: 'Suspended in time, I wait/ the way a dog waits, listening/ for footsteps, the kiss of her key.'
Nothing is delivered from on high in these poems. In fact everything feels like it's been discovered, even the questions: 'Tell me what it feels like/to lose something/one leaf at a time' ('Blind Girl Talking to a Tree').
Here is a generous and powerful book of poems born out of struggle and determination to live as fully as possible. The collection closes with these vows: 'I will ride the day to new places'; 'I will honor the body's complaints/ forgive mirrors/their honesty.// I will wear gratitude like a red coat/ forbearing the shifting/ seasons of hope and doubt.'
Like the speaker in William Meredith's 'Crossing Over,' Glasser has learned to 'walk light,' and we are the richer for it.
Mary McCue, poet, Raising the Blinds
"Let Jane Ellen Glasser tour you through her world. You'll encounter the embittered as well as the loving, realize the inspiration she finds in great art and the natural world, and feel the fullness of the resolutions that sustain her despite grief and loss. The poems are friendly, but inherently unpredictable. With her receptivity and artist's eye, she'll take you beyond fixed meaning. The ending of 'Truths I Tell Myself' nails what I mean: 'Devote your days / to searching for answers. // There are no answers.'
'Mockingbird' is a poem about learning the names of the palm trees in her new home. Reciting the names from a guide book, Glasser observes, 'Everything is known / by something else' and goes on to rhyme herself and the bird, who 'stores a songbook / in her throat / written by birds, insects, frogs.' There's hope in that, possibility: 'You can become anything, / [the bird] seemed to say, / flashing white flags / along an unfamiliar route.'
Inspired by Chagall's 'The Birthday,' Glasser writes, '[The man's] legs hang loose as clothes on a line. / His torso, cylindrical as a bullet, arcs at the neck / so that, eye to eye, the kiss // that began at the door continues as they move / into the room.' Poem after poem feels like an extending of one's imaginative reach, the way an outfielder extends to make a diving catch.
My other favorite 'after' great painting poem is 'Le déjeuner sur l'herbe,' in which one of the half-dressed women at the picnic smiles, 'Surely you've / entered into places like this, where faith / distills your life to one shimmering afternoon /and lets you rest there'--before going on to 'confide / there is something indelicate here' and explain how the painting 'warns us about opposites.'
The Red Coat is full of satisfactions--intelligence, humor, cynicism, lyricism, formal inventiveness--but fundamentally these are poems of contentment. You should read her earlier books, too: she has written her way through dark phases and light ones. While she alludes to some, in this new book Glasser is 'never alone.' As she writes at the end of 'Constitutional,' 'My shadow knows when to lead, / when to keep beside me, / when to follow me home.'
And I hope you have a chance to hear her read sometime. The poems are written with such care that they sing in your memory ever after."
Jay Paul, poet, The Last Monument
"I have been a fan of Jane Ellen Glasser’s poetry and books for decades. The depth and quality of her narrative, lyrical poetry continues to nourish and expand my heart and mind. The Red Coat is a stunning reflection on the complexity of what goes on in her mind. The opening poem, 'The Long Life' ends with exquisite stanzas:
Be like the heron who stands on the glistening
shoreline tucked into her wings.
Roam the countries in the two continents
inside your head. Speak to the natives,
all those people you have been and are.
All you have to do is listen.
This begins the observations, fantasies, and musings on nature, art and biographies. Jane Ellen’s is an ordinary, extraordinary life. Soon you will be calling to a friend, 'Listen to this!' from a part of 'The Imagined Man.'
I gave him features, a pastiche of parts
that had attracted me to others.
I dressed him from Saks. To please
my children, I made him Jewish.
I named him Henry.
Her sensitivity of what nature teaches is subtle and true as seen in the ending of: 'Japanese Cherry Blossom.'
the wind will begin its scattering work
and it will rain pink petals for a week.
As reverie follows bliss, green will follow pink.
And green can live for months on memory.
She does not pretend that life isn’t difficult. But there is the choice of how to live it, as expressed in these few lines from 'Vows for the New Year.'
I will wear gratitude like a red coat,forbearing the shifting
seasons of hope and doubt.
It is tough to choose just a few bits from this excellent collection. My best recommendation: buy it!"
Mary-Jean Kledzik, poet
"Jane Ellen Glasser’s book, The Red Coat, is a platinum collection of life lessons. Jane likes to walk and explore nature. Her poems mention field guides she takes while learning the lands she travels….and yet, here, in this sumptuous collection of poetry, she, herself, has created a field guide to life. Each poem a bit of life shared with eternity. From the loss of a child to the people and places she has known, imagined or yet to experience, she shares her inner thoughts in a candid and rich conversation of poetry. Favorite poems: 'Grandpa’s Tulips,' 'Dance Lessons' and, of course, 'Dolor of the Abandoned House.' These poems reveal the grit of this Jane Ellen Glasser, who navigates life with a hero’s grace- and the elegance of a tall giraffe heading home."
Anastasia Clark, poet
"Jane Ellen Glasser can be grasped through her poems - always living life with a positive outlook and great compassion, yet having experienced much pain in her past. Perhaps those experiences are why she can write with such veracity. But her ability to paint with words such vivid pictures combined with life's truths are just a part of her beautiful poetry - the rest is the amazing way Jane wraps all her poems in her own fresh approach to even the simplest of subjects."
Judith L Shaffer, member of Writers' Network of South Florida
Reviews of THE LONG LIFE
"Jane Ellen Glasser's The Long Life repays full immersion. These are not flashy poems but in their quiet tones they work powerfully through the choice of brilliant just metaphor and verb. She has a lot to say about living day to day and aging with full intelligence."
Marge Piercy, author, poet, activist
"Jane Ellen Glasser's artfully-rendered poems in this stunning new collection are praiseworthy for their wisdom and depth of feeling. Glasser's flawless, elegant craftsmanship in The Long Life is equally noteworthy. Technique vivifies vision in these contemplative poems that ultimately remind us to pay attention to 'the small favors of sunlight' existent in our own lives."
Dr. Carolyn Kreiter-Foronda, Poet Laureate of Virginia 2006-2008
"Jane Ellen Glasser's new poems give us a vibrant grasp of what it means to pay close attention to this life and to translate such tender scrutiny into language that reaches out for and into the reader's mind. In reading this collection, I find myself drawn out of my daily muddle and reminded of the best reasons to 'not go gentle into that good night.' Save yourself. Read this book."
Tim Seibles, author, Fast Animal
Reviews of LIGHT PERSISTS, Winner of the Tampa Review Prize
"Enter into the most stunning of these poems and come away without words because her words have been transformed into events of pure being."
"Direct from the hip but as elegant as hats, the poems in Light Persists find, in the face of death, reasons to live. This is the miracle of art, and Jane Ellen Glasser has accomplished it again and again in this second collection Her wisdom is palpable, her words cool, gentle and calming. Read this book to find a friend and guide."