Reviews of The Land Has Its Say by Henry Lyman
Rebecca Hart Olander in Rain Taxi, Fall 2015
The land has messages for us, and Lyman imbues every inch of it with a face. In “Stone Age,” imagined ancestor visages peer through schist, while in “Side Canyons,” a fossilized handprint extends a ghostly gesture…Yes, the land has its say in Lyman’s book; the poet as his say, too, and his words are welcome and necessary.
John Freeman in Tears in the Fence, Winter/Spring 2017
The cumulative effect of The Land Has Its Say is of an unfashionable piety, though a piety dependent on no recognizable creed… and even in the time of the missile, and of the sixth mass extinction and the Anthropocene, profound meditation leads us as it always has done to the most surprising destination; or rather, the realization, in the last lines of the book, of where we have always been.
Steve Pfarrer in Book Bag, The Daily Hampshire Gazette, April 24, 2015
Henry Lyman has been a key person in the local poetry scene for some time. From the mid-1970s to 1994, he hosted a nationally distributed program on WFCR-FM in Amherst that featured readings and conversations with poets. He also edited a posthumous collection of Robert Francis’ poems. Lyman’s latest verse is showcased in The Land Has Its Say, published by Open Field Press in Northampton. The seventy poems are divided into five sections, in which the author reflects on a range of topics: the small New England farm he grew up on, the pull of the countryside, the tumultuous 1960s and his part in them, and the dark side of the human race.
In poems like “Caretaker,” Lyman recalls the slower rhythms of the past and the landscapes of his youth: “There were plenty of turtles in those days / and whenever we saw one crossing a roadway / my father would pull over, pick it up in his hands / and set it on the other side. Sometimes, crouching, / I would lay my palm against the sun-warmed shell, / count the years in its ridges, travel the slow miles.”
Poems like “Photo” and “1945– ” invoke much darker images: war, destruction and cruelty. The latter work recalls the birth of the atomic age and the legacy of the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in Japan: “If cities turn into clouds and television screens darken / simultaneously with heaven, no one should be too surprised. / It would seem as if it all had happened long ago before.”
But Lyman ends his collection on a more hopeful note, finding continued beauty in nature and contentment at being part of it. In that sense, “Sometimes on a River” becomes a metaphor for the importance of being in the moment: “May things / be slow, thus, always let them spread / their surfaces outward into time until / there is no forward or back, or time / at all, until the river’s mirror is all / there is of us and we are on the way / toward nowhere but here ...”
Excerpts from reviews of Forged Light by Margaret Lloyd
Matthew Jarvis, Poetry Wales, Summer 2014
Lloyd’s apparent disinterest in straining after unusual (or unusually placed) words or in creating startling images is a great pleasure….the liquid ease of the language [keeps] the eponymous tales moving with a fluid beauty….[in section IV] the speaker of the poems responds to the imminent death of her mother—and does so without, I think, descending into either lugubriousness or sentimentality….In its offering up of a poetic dwelling on the long-drawn-out loss of a parent, Forged Light is definitely worth reading. . . .Lloyd’s fine work deserves many readers.
Sara Coles, Planet: The Welsh Internationalist, Summer 2014
In Forged Light, Margaret Lloyd treads the well-worn path of placing Welsh mythology, and classical and biblical stories, into a contemporary world. She does so with competence and often with brilliance….The poems are dense and rich. . . . individual pieces are sumptuous and deeply moving….The book also showcases Lloyd’s haunting paintings—water-soaked landscapes which capture the Welsh ambience with enviable skill.
Steve Pfarrer, October 31, 2013, Book Bag, The Daily Hampshire Gazette
Margaret Lloyd wears several hats: English professor and creative writing teacher; chairwoman of the humanities department at Springfield College; painter; poet. Lloyd, of Northampton, has combined the last two in her newest poetry collection, Forged Light, by Open Field Press, also of Northampton.
In this 70-poem volume, Lloyd has included reprints of five of her abstract watercolor landscapes, which she uses to introduce each of five separate groups of poems. The first section, “Tales,” offers her take on historical and mythological figures, from the Greek goddess Persephone to Branwell Brontë, brother of Emily and Charlotte. The second section, “World Wanting a Voice,” examines aspects of her past, including her roots in her native Wales.
In her work, Lloyd reflects on life’s ambiguities and mysteries, as well as the way the past circles back to impact the present. One section of Forged Light — Lloyd’s watercolor of the same title is on the book’s cover — explores the author’s experience of caring for her dying mother, and in those poems Lloyd invokes both mystical and quotidian images of loss.
“I call my mother on the phone and we sit in silence / as she listens to the nurses’ conversations,” says the narrator of ‘Winter.’ “I could be calling her in heaven / where she prefers to listen to angels talking / while they wheel others in, taking off heavy coats / welcoming them. She knows I am somewhere / down on earth holding a phone and straining after her.”
Lloyd also writes of the earth itself, its legacy and varied landscapes, both pleasing and haunting. In “Under a Sky,” three people walk along a road in an undefined place past “stone and cattails” and “wild roses and fens,” continuing endlessly: “Even in the winter months / we’d be walking, moving always./ Past cities and ruined farms. Past / stands of birch and the sea.”
Review of Open Field: Poems from Group 18
Howard Faerstein in Cutthroat
You will discover in this impressive retrospective: engagement, meaning (with all its attended ambiguity), and more often than not, voice, an essential quality lost in today’s frenzied gluttony…
The diversity represented is stunning. Tone shifts from each poet’s three page selection to the next while music, pacing, and substance are constants.
…This is the age of the streaming prevarication. One hopes to get the truth from friends and from poets we respect, a truth that uncovers, amplifies, informs, and instructs in the human. Open Field is an anthology that delivers on its promise.
John Freeman writes about the anthology Open Field:
"..thank you for Open Field, which I have read with great and deep appreciation. There is a variety in abundance but a common value of truth to the heart and to the honest wholesome human qualities produced by the hardness and beauty of life, the truths of the heart and the life lived in proper touch with the natural world. There is not a poem here that is not in one way or another my kind of poem."
John Sprague writes about the anthology Open Field:
"This book has really changed my view of contemporary poetry, which so often doesn’t move me. The poets in Group 18 are giving voice to the felt experience of living in ways that touch me quite consistently — every time I open the book — every single poet! It’s now my favorite poetry book."
The Daily Hampshire Gazette
Steve Pfarrer, January 11, 2012
Group 18 is the name of a poetry workshop group that has operated out of Northampton since 1985, and this collection, titled Open Field, offers 85 poems from people who have been part of the organization and engaged in its "vigorous exchange" during the past 25 years.
Altogether, the work of 33 poets - some no longer living in this area - is included in the volume, which is printed by Collective Copies. Among the distinguished names are Jack Gilbert, a nationally known poet who at one time lived in Northampton and was a writer-in-residence at Smith College, and Linda Gregg, Gilbert's former wife, another former Northampton resident who has won numerous awards for her work.
The poems run the gamut, from long and short and impressionistic to direct. A good example of the latter is Robert Cole's sad note on aging, "Returning."
"Heading south to Philadelphia, I'm going home- / brother, mother. Father dead for two years. / My brother hears voices, shouts at himself. / Every day, my mother sees his pain. / What can I give but money and words / before I tell them I have to go?"