Wednesday, September 8, 2010
Glenis Redmond's earth, wind & fire
DO NOT READ Glenis Gale Redmond. You don’t have to. She reads to you. She is a SHOUT for all those who have heard poetry’s direct flight from mouth to ear. Listen to her with your eyes. I borrow these words, with sincere apologies, from Bob Holman, one of the founders of downtown New York City’s Nuyorican Poetry Café, as a fitting invocation to Ms Redmond’s Muse, a dragon spirit with the ethereal grace of a dove. I spent almost three weeks trying in vain to capture in written word both the exhilaration and insistence, urgency and sensation of her work’s impact on me. Long after I nailed down the last syllable in this rereading, I’m sure I’d still be mooning for the apt body of words that’ll speak of her with justice and appropriateness. It’s simply bothersome.
Like an old Chinese poetry, as espoused by Li Po and Lee Young-Li (on line with Holman’s observation), there is no verb without a noun—it is contained in the character. I do agree. For, the poems that Glenis Redmond spew, pray or chant out of her body and soul are not just aesthetic recognition and exaltation of earth, wind, and fire – these poems know poetry is a contact sport. It is physical, as well as mental; emotional, as well as spiritual. On her couch, cabin, cafe, and cabaret, poetry warms the wearied spirit, shelters the wandering rebel, and celebrates the downtrodden.
When she lets loose words out of her system, she simultaneously unleashes fire that ignites light more than it burns the glade—unwavering and powerful, at the same time, enlightening and comforting. Imbibe this ferocious grace -- “If If I die from love / this life, / I want to be recycled / as fire. /Fed by orange / brandished flame. / Spread openly / like desire / over love’s / candid plain.
And when she emotes the human condition through language and movement, she also breathes the earth’s gifts and grime like a mother to a child—unrepentant and proud, sacrificing but volatile. Then, as she belts out her poetry like the blues that feeds off “sweet brown fat juicy raisins” of grandmother nature, you can almost feel the soulful warmth of a gospel singer’s celestial voice: “I need some fresh from the garden, ripe and ready, old fashioned, cooked in a pot three days, lip smackin’, homemade, backslappin’, sweet brown and juicy kind of love.” The rhythm is exhilarating, the vibe is jubilating—it is a prayer recited amidst the howl of conga drums. The impact stays inside long after the trajectory cut deep into you, ricocheted within and then left like a winter’s wandering wind. Her spirit is disturbing and haunting but it’s not ghostly or cold – it’s transcendent and warm.
These are, to me, understatements below Ms Redmond’s azure sky and blue ocean. While most of the poems in her book, “Backbone,” are sparkling gems of sheer, earthly grace, mystifying pungency, and burrowing passion, the essential appreciation of her work come with the actual, live contact.
She unwittingly, yet continuously, blur the grey line that separates the sublime from the mundane, and the immaculate from the corporeal—without losing their respective lustre. In other words, for Redmond, there are no picket fences thrust between her and her audience. Whenever she delivers her message – may it be with fire or wind, stone or rose – it’s definitely got to be straight-put, bottoms-up, no chasers in between.
Ring out your song, shout it out, girl, in the midnight hour until the noonday sun.
Petition it to the left, slam it to the right with fist and head held high.
You are moist clay, they can’t break you now.
Sing your song that cloaks you in honor with each stretch on your belly,
With each wrinkle around your eye.
LIKE A SOUL and blues goddess, she possesses the uncanny ability to laugh in the midst of adversity—hence, she makes the struggle at the bottom of the social order a celebration, if not victory regained. Her poems define everyday people’s most cherished moments—when bitterness is transcended and spirits lifted to exalt existence, not to mourn them.
That’s the magic of Redmond’s craft: Her metaphors refuse to tilt on a so-called intellectual perch, which could make her elusive, even remote. Instead, she weaves her images so deftly and flawlessly, making sure that we’re not left bewitched, bothered or bewildered by the poetic trance – but warmly let inside, and welcomed as integral part of her creative moondance.
“Poetry has followed me all the days of my life.” Glenis Gale Redmond, a self-proclaimed native of nowhere, is telling us a very physical truth. Her poetry is her life – like a beautiful spirit that commune in harmony with earth, wind and fire. Without these gifts of existence, she ceases to be. But we all know these blessings of life, like poetry and Glenis Redmond’s Muse, are eternal...