by Shirley Windward|
||Shirley Windward reads widely and studies deeply.
She is as much action as observation; as much thought as feeling.
The range of her activity, observation, thought, and feeling in
the poems in Web Songs shows that “All life is grist for a working poet’s
The depth and points of view of observation, thought, and feeling,
the subjects used, and imagery created make poems that require spaced
reading for absorption. A good prescription is “Take one nightly. Repeat
as necessary.” And use a dictionary freely.
The notes below can only give glimpses of some of the many ways that
subjects and images in Web Songs resonate with and challenge the reader —
and they do resonate and challenge.
For example, the poet is the point-of-view character in a poem, but
the poet who is the point-of-view character in these poems is not always
Shirley Windward. Or concluding lines that make the reader say, “That
does not follow,” may also make the reader add, “Oh, yes, it does.” Or
words and combinations may require study before beauty and aptness
The poems are arranged in seven sections.
First is SOME EARLY STRANDS with vivid actions and
images of home and family. Especially touching is this one:
||I have a grandchild
|who lives in that part of my brain
where imagination's bred
and fed. The back of his neck is
beauty, his skin begonia petals
after rain, the color of his hair
wind-driven summer wheat.
His matchless eyes meet mine
with no evasion.
||I see him running
|on ocean sand, feet never stilled
never harmed by shard or stone.
||I see him climbing
|a treeful hill to a place where
I cannot follow. My last glimpse is
| always a silhouette at
||edge of the sky.
Next is LOVE THREADS, SPUN, which opens with
After five hours of sleep,
I come up from a dreamscape
of great seas, my raft rocking
on an emerald wave,
a mighty silver fish sounding
sixty feet away—
to find my hand still lies
coiled in yours.
Click picture to
a readable (PDF) image.
After “Bliss” are three successive poems that require thought
separately and together.
In “One Penultimate Love Song,” the poet creates idyllic images of
literal and figurative connections that reveal what “Loving you means” —
the last image that of wanting the last breaths of both to be in the
In “Lines for a Husband,” the poet and the beloved are “two tunes/ played
together” at different tempos, in different registers, creating “dissonant
But they are lightly scored
and delicately played
and so sweet softly
do they disagree
that each atones for the other. The beginning is conflicting, not
idyllic, but the ending makes the conflicts complementary.
In “Letter to a Departed In-Law,” the poet details what made the in-law
unlikable, confesses that those matters caused admirable qualities to remain
unseen and the in-law to be unattended in her last days. The impact of the
poem makes the reader want to turn away or defend the in-law or forgive the
poet or do all three.
ANACAPA INTERLUDE is a “Field Trip to Anacapa Island
in Eight Cantos.”
The reader never learns exactly who is on the field trip or the occasion
of the trip but does get the essence of the experience of city teenagers on
a wind-swept island.
The poems in CERTAIN ENTANGLING ENCOUNTERS make the reader uneasy but
aware that the situations are part of life.
In “Give Us This Day,” pain is put into images that leave the reader with
interpretations and then more interpretations.
“That Certain Smell” opens with a stand-alone line:
"I have smelled evil six times in my life."
FEY SPINNING TIME includes “After the Quarrel” —
an intense film of the quarrel with a high impact resolution.
And it includes “Web Song,” in which a maker of
webs laments that she “could have spun a stronger web,” for “Now it hangs in
shreds.” But she will mend it, and “by some distant week or a changeling
month after that . . .”
I shall have spun — oh beautiful in that bedewed
morning — a stronger, a wiser, a more
STATE OF THE ART includes “Five Reasons for Weeping”—
a set of scenes that may leave readers weeping or feeling that they are wept
The last section is SIGNALS FOR DOCTOR DEATH.
In “Second Testament,” the theme, the recurring line, “I am letting go”
introduces familiar and unfamiliar tendencies, expectations, urges (clearly
applicable to the reader) that once were strong but are no longer. Things
being let go range from a simple action: “side-glancing into black store
windows” to the sweeping complexity of “a greed for life.”
The last poem is “Visitation” in which the poet is visited by Death, who
lists some of those who called for him that day. The list includes “In
Greece, a million/ butterflies, on schedule. . . .” The poet goes “almost
too far” with acknowledgment of Death, then engages Death in struggle.
We fought with
amicable abandon, Death and I.
All night. All night
we fought. He left me reasonably
impressed. For a week I was sore.
But he has not been around to court me
with butterflies, lately.
The collection in Web Songs will reward you.
Keep Web Songs by your bed or reading chair.
To get the full magic of Windward
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