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  • Passionate Poetics
  • Ilka Scobie (bio)
Lunar Eclipse
Helane Levine-Keating
Finishing Line Press
46 Pages; Print, $14.99
Packs Small Plays Big
Phyllis Capello
Bordighera Press
70 Pages; Print, $10.00

"And it's not as if poetry can ward off old age sickness death don't be silly but it eases suffering. I'll say it again 'Poetry eases suffering.'"

—Anne Waldman "Kali Yuga Poetics"

Helane Levine-Keating is an urbane woman with an expansive appreciation of the natural world. Apparently dividing her time between the city and the country, she revels in both geographies and is able to pinpoint experiences far removed from metropolitan chaos. In poems like "Who Shall Say What Is Known" she observes magical minute details like, "stars opened / and closed / like tulips / after dusk," and she continues on in "The Natural Thing" with "and notice the mist / exhaling from the dew as dusk was aching / to whisper about everything awaiting me." She watches for hawks and searches for wild ginseng, but does so with an always cosmopolitan eye.

But the twenty-eight poems of "Lunar Eclipse" are much more than odes to pastoral pleasures. A provocateur, Levine-Keating belies the conceit that passion, both physical and emotional, belongs solely to the young. Obviously a woman who navigates later love, her mature voice details romantic relationships both old and new. The poem "Late Love" reminds us, "with one slash into the landscape / everything shifted" and how "some saw the splendor of change / the lability of lines." And then, she succinctly concludes with, "Yet even chaos has a rhythm / of loops peaks and drums / like the cadence of late love / before it's over." Addressing a partner she did not know in her youth, "These Two" introduces and imagines "the you in that square kodak photo" to "the me in bell-bottom hiphuggers" who are "grinning with their whole lives / opening before them." These gone youthful shadows then "crawl into bed with us," "taunting us / away from the cave of old hearts." It is these same "old hearts" that the poet imbues with lyrical life, celebrating mature emotional and erotic possibilities.

A writer of elegant and well edited economy, Levine-Keating's unpunctuated lines are powerfully concise. The poet is also a photographer, and her artist's experience and knowledge are ever present. The introductory poem, "Elegy at Bibemus," echoes the avant-garde perspectives of post-Impressionist master Paul Cezanne, who painted masterpieces in Bibermus. Transporting the reader to a sun parched corner of the hidden sandstone quarries in Provence, France, "when the mistral came the air was yellow" and "our thoughts were dark / and edgy like a river ready to flood though the land was dry." The reader can feel the shimmering summer heat "by following the spiked scent of rosemary" and "the rasping drone of cicadas / vibrated from plane trees and Cezanne's mountains shone victoriously." The concluding lines haunt with a wise simplicity, "and what I wanted then / I would want still only then I imagined I could have it."

The breathless title poem, "Lunar Eclipse" sings with beatnik cadence. Echoing painterly abstraction, the poet details "stripes of blue and orange / and cardinal gliding across the sky / like Rothkos slowly shapeshifting." She sees the "cold white moon," "briefly hovering in its rapture / before roundly plunging / as soon we will / into a silver triangle / of dawn-lit sea" and gently reminds us of our own inevitable mortality.

Vision and voice transmutes bucolic observations into art and the reader is reminded that quotidian life can be layered with the sublime. More than detailing a rural post-divorce life, Levine-Keating subtly salutes seasoned pleasures and realizations. Pondering this writing offers quiet moments of poetic peace.

Like Levine-Keating, Phyllis Capello's voice resounds with urbane and experienced compassion. A subdued steady activism animates her expansive sisterhood, one that freely embraces blood family, recent refugees, mythological goddesses, and her very real urban public school students. Romantic European influences also stretch from "I'm the daughter / of the son left behind in Sicilian hills" from "The...


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pp. 21-22
Launched on MUSE
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