Saturday, November 20, 2010

IN ORDINARY LIGHT

There’s nothing ordinary about Darrell Bourque’s poetry. His latest book, IN ORDINARY LIGHT: NEW AND SELECTED POEMS, is an extraordinary collection of poems written during his career as a poet, teacher, director of poetry projects, and as an inspiration for those who love language, particularly the language of poetry. In this collection, Darrell speaks to us in the same manner as he lives his life –a life without dark areas and one that is warm with possibility and brilliance.

Light illuminates poems throughout the collection, underscoring the theology of saints like St. Gregory who tells us that light is inside everything and outside everything; that it is all beauty and higher than all beauty. A glance at titles in the table of contents informs us that light is the core concept: “Light Theology and the Persimmon Tree,” which is used as a motif for the front and back cover of IN ORDINARY LIGHT, the beautiful glass work created by Darrell’s wife, Karen. Titles include “Summer Light,” “The Beam That Passes Through,” “Light Witness,” ”Winter Light”…

The poems of IN ORDINARY LIGHT generate in the reader a feeling about the light of a transcendent reality, and those that are written about his mother bathe the reader in the luster of her maternal ministrations. In every poem, the radiance of revelation persists. Darrell uses a range of meter and forms, but the work moves effortlessly. Subjects include family, friends, the landscape of Acadiana, poems about paintings which are composed after Darrell has viewed the art of Bonnard, Durer, Vermeer, and other notable artists. It is always clear to the reader that we are reading the work of an intellect that has been illumined by something beyond “ordinary light.”

The reader is also treated to haiku; e.g., “BASHO: Pecan trees open/green parasols on green fields/this year’s work half done,” as well as his “Eight Prayers In An August garden”: “That Fire Reflected in Blue Water;"  “The Clearing After Dark”…

Like an artist designing a cathedral to allow the light to filter through, Darrell creates images that capture us with their luminosity again and again, reflecting the two components Robert Frost spoke of that are characteristic of good poetry: wisdom and joy. We salute Darrell with two lines derived from his own, “My Father At Bay,” “He is doing what he has to do, / And the sun is still high in the sky.” We know that the poet has many poems and much light yet to share.

I’ve written many blogs about my friend, Darrell Bourque, poet laureate of Louisiana, and he continues to amaze me with his formidable gift. Darrell is Professor Emeritus in English and Interdisciplinary Humanities from the University of Louisiana at Lafayette. He has published six volumes of poetry and anticipates the publication of his seventh: HOLDING THE NOTES, a chapbook commissioned by Chicory Bloom Press, which will appear in 2011.

Bravo, bien fait, mon cher ami.
Cover paintings by Karen Bourque and cover art photograph by Philip Gould
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