It’s very exciting for me to unearth contemporary poets, especially those who write of ordinary everyday things with authenticity and creativity. When it happens, I find it brings with it moments of unguarded, unfetted, bliss. Sometimes it’s instant, or immediate (like a sudden enlightenment) and sometimes it follows hours later lingering (like a gradual awakening). Rarely does poetry do both, to me at least. Well that was my experience until I accidentally unearthed the poetry of Francina Hartstra. Francina’s is a well seasoned poet, who’s blog www.seasonspoetry.com had already impressed me with her Haiku.
Francina writes in single brush strokes of her pen and reveals pure observations, peppered with the Zen spices and Tao herbs of wisdom and compassion. I started slowly delving into the back catalogue. Captivated by older pieces, I wanted to know more about her work. Particularly about the reoccurring theme of water? So I asked Francina about this and how I may obtain a copy of her earlier published book The Song of the River. Days later Francina’s book came through my door, as a generous gift!
The Song of the River is a beautifully bounded book with great artwork on the front, and paper which gives off a rich texture to touch before you even open the book. The type print is simple and starts off with a bold Red letter. It hints of a romantic letter and seducing the reader into what follows. What follows a gentle lingering like the memory of a lover, the poetry walks with you, taps you on the shoulder and gives you pause for thought. It’s a pure reflection of life, without sentimentality.
Don’t bring roses
only to wither in a vase
so soon to be forgotten,
Share instead with me instead
a sunlit bed of white flowers
where memories blossom
Effortlessly she takes me on a journey from bleakness in Winter Mood,
Through sheer layers of mist
the fading sound from a distant train;
down the street house look like ghosts
with their dark hollow eyes, reflecting
no more than the coldness outside:
footsteps bounce back from silence
in the vacuum coloured by grays
where the living are not to be found
yet one lone soul still wanders around.
and then her words picks me up and lifts me onwards to the other side of season cycle in Summer Wind.
In this open outstretched land
my thoughts fade away in silence
with the whispers of long grasses
to flee with the summer wind.
All the while her tranquil words offering inner warmth, the tonic I needed as the cold nights draw in.
The title piece is a siren’s call, pulling me towards the rocks, but at the same time giving warnings to the dangers that lays ahead.
While water of the wildest river
unveils our deep passion
deep blue water at rivers end
calls to us love and loss
The theme of Water Gypsies and Fast-earth, harking back to ancient greek mythology, a time when nature had little trouble beckoning us to return to her, our true self. Actually all of poems in Francina’s book points towards a deeper source, to keep our earth-spirit awake, to come back, like some some lost love affair we once had with our lives and the planet.
Listen how the old river softly sings,
so softly the songs of yesterdays;
the longing in my soul grows stronger,
to return to when the river was my home
Francina’s book holds me in the scene, like I’m there, right there in the picture. I’m At The Beach, dipping my toes in the laughter of water. The oceans currents covers my feet. Happy feet as I walk along the long rocks and the soft sand along the shoreline, marooned or “stranded”, yet reaffirming the unrelenting “surge of life” as if shoring against ruin. You can see the glints on the wave tops as the detergent foam flecks the air. There is a sky full of birds. Their thin hearts are happy. Their minds are like water-beds.
The moment after resting down The Song of the River, is similar to that moment when the poem is just complete and the world is bright before the doubt starts, before the need to repeat arrives, before the can I, before the will I, before the is it, before the does it, before the itch and gnawing kicks in, before all that.
Francina’s poetry remains with me like a subliminal faith. I know it’s there and yet feel refrain from speaking of it. Like a child I shall sit wearing my Sunday suit in this byre in the shade and floating motes with the soft sweat at the back of my collar until the time for the service comes round and instead of rising and preparing myself for songs of praise, I shall stay on here in a somnambulant buzz.
See Francina’s website www.seasonspoetry.com
Poems used with kind permission. Please respect her copyright.
Copyright © 2004 by Jerry H. Jenkins
Louisville, Kentucky, USA