Emily Dickinson and Edna St. Vincent Millay were the ladies who introduced me to poetry the winter that I was fourteen. The words and the images that they captured demanded to be stamped on my memory, so I began writing my favorites down in a scrap book.
Since then, my poetry collection has grown to its own place on the shelf, and I have continued to copy down my favorites in a memory book. I'm so glad that No One Can Stem The Tide is now part of my library.
Jane Tyson Clement's lend themselves to slow, restful reading, and time to let them sink in. They deserve the extra meditation space.
The first one I opened to was titled Autumn, and in it Jane Tyson Clement says that God "charges me to see all lovely things." I think these poems are her collection of seeing, of noticing.
And as you read about what she's seen, you call it up in your mind's eye and realize that these same sights have shaped and made their mark on you, too. The word pictures she crafted jump off the page.
April rain is "heedless/lovely/necessary/" and Autumn is when "the wind fills with scarlet spinning down..."
Most of the poems start with something in nature (mouse tracks in snow, bells ringing out, salt spray of the sea) and then delve into the human heart. Her inner world and the created world and their merging with the spiritual world are all explored here.
One poem that I really love begins with this affirmation:
"The earth's good, in spit of evil;
The earth's good; I've tasted it."
It goes on to describe the many ways that we've all eaten and drank of the goodness amidst the brokenness. That poem reminded me of These Have I Loved by Rupert Brooke.
All of these poems can be considered praise to the Maker, every moment she experienced, appreciated, and wrote about testifies and reminds us of Presence of God in life. Some of them are direct.
Conversion, for example, reminded me of St. Patrick's Breastplate.
"So may I be possessed and claimed and altered,
no part of life denied but all transferred
into thy kingdom where no man has faltered
but to be raised again by thy sure word."
Some of them, like Rainbow, are laughing, limpid, joyous verses, as she points out that wet sheep in a meadow don't notice the rainbow resting on their backs.
One of them is so short and compact, it's own structure mimics the subject!
like a loved story
whose ending we know well
and wait for-"
For me, in New England, ferns are the sublime sign of Spring. This poem tells me that she understood.
Just a few more examples of her verses....
To My Unborn Child:
"I am in God's hands, and you
In God's hands,
all of it God's: the light, the dark,
and this wild, petal-drifting,
"...the harmony has risen and has gone
into the mind of God
where it will linger
always among all beauty we have lost."
So yes, lover of poetry, and lover of beauty, spiritual seeker, Jane Tyson Clement's poems belong on your shelf. Read them, enjoy them. Let the words root in your memory.
And remember, from her poem Abiding,
"Things that abide are those that God
and man have loved together:
the sheep, the keels, the bells, the bird
the shepherd- are forever."
Thank you Plough publishing for my review copy. It is much appreciated!
Poet and writer Jane Tyson Clement (1917 – 2000) grew up on the Upper West Side of Manhattan. But she always preferred Bay Head, New Jersey where her family owned a summer house. “There was something eternal about it that was always a rock and an anchor for me.” Jane earn an English degree at Smith College and married Robert Clement, a Quaker attorney. Together they sought for meaning in life and an answer to social injustice. They eventually joined the Bruderhof, a Christian community. Jane taught school and raised a family, but her unquenchable thirst for justice, and for the wonders and mysteries that lie hidden in nature, kept her restless. Her poetry and short stories mirror this lifelong quest for truth and wholeness.