The Book of Jeweled Visions by Robert Schuler. MWPH Books, PO Box 8, Fairwater, WI 53931 [tmmontag (at) centurylink (dot) net], 2010. $12.50.
Reviewed by Linda Aschbrenner
The word “jeweled” in Robert Schuler’s title, The Book of Jeweled Visions, brings to mind sparkling gems, small treasures. This 104-page book holds approximately 185 poems, a few as short as one line—gems. Due to the brevity of each poem, the lines are chiseled, polished to convey “beauty, truth, perhaps wisdom.” The delicate afterglow in such thrifty poems has the piquancy of haiku. Schuler pays attention to sound—the soft, subtle dream of alliteration and internal rhyme, the occasional splash of the sh, the surprise bullet of the end hard consonant. All poems of praise, escape, wonder, ecstacy; some are pensive, dolorous.
Schuler states: “The model for this bundle of poems is the Book of Hours, medieval collections of works of art, celebration, prayers, praise, meditation, and devotion.…I’ve attempted to set forth the moments when I have been awake to the gracious blessings of beauty and love, the flowers, winds, rains, snows, suns, moons, birds, music, the sounds, art, the colors, all the minute ecstasies I have received. Also, to record some occasional disappointments, failures, weaknesses, and moments of despair.” (104)
Confronted with such riches, this book is one to keep at hand to read and reflect on at leisure. One goes on various voyages with Schuler—one voyage takes us into nature, brief fleeting seconds alive with wondrous details and delicious sounds.
Poems of nature: “rain falling/ in cups of leaves/ for the sparrows” (22); “caught in the copper/ wires of the willow/ plum moon” (24); “flocks of goldfinches bouncing/ feeding on the dusky seedhusks/ of woodland sunflowers stalks/ swaying in slow summer wind” (39); as well as:
round the white
of the hedge bindweed
vines rising out of
steaming gray-green shadows (35)
a misty distillation
sawdust spilling out of black
into pools of rain
a blue wash over all (55)
Sometimes pronouncements, philosophy, and interjections accompany the descriptions: “the artist must sing the truth/ however oddly,” (“song,” 8); “why have I lived/ this life trapped/ in the mind in the body” (“listening to Générique by Miles Davis,” 21); “I have no idea/ why we are alive,” (“after Reverdy,” 23); “I think the meaning of poems/ is to keep creating them” (44); “writing/ out of chaos/ out of love/ against time” (44); “it is a war/ between sorrow/ and love” (50); “to write/ to praise/ is to exist” (“blue lumière,” 50).
Art and jazz are other themes. To quantify, Schuler mentions jazz musicians in 37 poems. Here’s the tally: Miles Davis appears in eight poems, Coltrane in six, Howlin’ Wolf, three, and Getz, Monk, and Tito Puente in two each, along with others, including Stevie Ray Vaughan, Sonny Rollins, Charlie Parker, Chet Baker, and bluesman Junior Kimbrough. One craves jazz after reading this book. To wit:
Miles Davis playing “It Never Entered my Mind”
how much is at stake in love
souls always at the stake
how difficult to articulate
truth squelch the grasping self
remorse agenbite of inwit
for having given pain
you need her like air
the song should be
slow moody lyrical
Arranging a series of short poems can be a challenge. Schuler and his publisher did a fine job plotting the poems so that facing pages are balanced and attractive. So too, the poems.
For eleven years Linda Aschbrenner edited and published the poetry journal Free Verse (now Verse Wisconsin). In 2001, Aschbrenner founded Marsh River Editions, a publisher of poetry chapbooks.