Friday, April 07, 2006

Sleeping Woman (Poems) by Herbert Scott

Book Review by Zinta Aistars

# Paperback: 88 pages
# Publisher: Carnegie-Mellon University Press, 2005
# Price: $13.95
# ISBN: 0887484301

I had the great pleasure of meeting and interviewing Herb Scott in 2001 for a story I was writing for a local magazine about the Third Coast Anthologies and New Issues Press, of which he was founder and lifeblood. I had the renewed pleasure of hearing him read from Sleeping Woman in the past year, on his return to Kalamazoo in what, alas, turned out to be a farewell. Scott passed away not long after.

Sleeping Woman, as I reread it now, still hearing his voice in my mind, lives on to pass the joy of words well framed in meaning and rhythm for poets and those who love poetry long after the poet himself is gone. Scott's work is immersed in the wonder of the everyday and the everyman, shining upon it that precise angle of light that reveals its quiet magic. He writes of bread and how it breaks in the hands, a neighbor he nods and waves to every day but will never know, a homeless man sleeping on a sidewalk in Kalamazoo, November rain.

If I were to reach my hand
into the rich, wet leaves
and lift them to my face, I would smell
the season's blood, animal, insect,
the evidence of earthly living.
Each thing has left its mark, its scent,
all the ravelled fragments of birth
and death fallen into place.

In another poem, called "The Unforgiven," Scott writes about an observation he's made--that often when we transgress once, that is what marks our lives, although we have otherwise lived them well.

It is strange
how sometimes
no matter
if we live for years
a good and loving life
we are never forgiven
our smallest transgressions...

But we remember Herb Scott for his poetry, for his many, many good works, for his legacy of so many other fine poets that he has brought to light, and to the printed page with New Issues Press.

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