By: Joyce White
Publication Date: July 2010
Reviewed by: Eloise Michael
Review Date: July 2010
The fourth book in Joyce White's Sculpting the Heart series, Sculpting the Heart's Poetry While Conversing with the Masters is a collection of poems that are playful, hopeful, and sometimes even joyful. White does not shy away from serious topics, however. She is able to write about loss, regret, and her own deep fears. White hints at times of depression and hopelessness in her own life. Her readers will do more than share her sorrow, however, and will not be encouraged to wallow in their own. In her poem Tears are like Polliwogs White describes her own optimism in the playful style which runs throughout her poetry.
Tears are like Polliwogs
It is nice to think of tears like
polliwogs swimming around in a
mortal's eyes, evolving into well-
adjusted higher forms,
with better motor control and hand-
eye co-ordination, ascending rather
bending rather than breaking,
reaffirming rather than hurting, and
smiling rather than frowning,
It's nice to think of sorrow as water,
and all those tears escaping where
swelling pain had been,
It's nice to think our sorrow will soon
evaporate just like our tears, turning
our attention to helping others evolve.
The philosophy outlined in this poem provides the template for much of White's work. When she writes of challenges or loss, she includes in each poem a seed of hope that will leave readers feeling lighter even as they are reminded of their own times of sadness. Her hopefulness does not trivialize the subjects of the poems, however. White's optimism is subtle, sometimes no more than her tone or the way she chooses her words. The effect is cumulative, and after reading the entire collection, readers will be left satisfied, energized, and smiling.
Most of the poems in this collection are ekphrastic poems, each written in response to a piece of art, in this case, paintings. White describes ekphrastic poetry as a “conversation between two pieces of art.” In these poems, White looks into the soul of the artist to whom she is responding, imagining his thoughts and motivation, turning each painting into a metaphor for the artist's life. Readers will view Picasso's work in a new way, and may even be inspired to visit the nearest museum or gallery.
White has a talent for transforming hardship and grief into something more. She turns these challenges into a way forward, both for herself, and for her readers. She is at her best, however, when she is writing of joy. Her observations of children, animals, and nature capture her subjects' ability to fully live in the moment and to celebrate that moment. Happy Children, below, is a perfect illustration.
Happy children are all-stars, curious
jugs of sunshine, their faces radiant,
their eyes metaphors of emptiness and
fullness perfectly contained, their
naiveté keeps us entertained,
they don't think about anything too
long, peanut butter keeps them
energized, they have happy feet, elastic
like acrobats they ride bareback on
wild stallions with wings, they train
smarter, not harder, slow and steady
gets them there,
they balance fun with rest, and they lie
on their backs and take pleasure in
moments of nothingness.
Joyce White's tone is honest, friendly, never preachy. Many of the poems in this collection are written in the first person, but White's voice is present, even when she does not specifically include herself. Readers will feel as though she is confiding in them. White chooses her words carefully, having fun with their sounds and meanings. She also employs metaphors, never saying more than necessary to make her point or to create an image. It is easy to read White's poems and easy to find meaning within them. When readers go back to reread a few favorites, they will find that the poems are even better the second and third time.
Quill says: Playful poems that will leave readers hopeful even when their subjects are sad or difficult.