Warbler by Jane Schapiro

Source: GBF
Paperback, 57 pgs.
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Warbler by Jane Schapiro is a poetic song of loss, a call to grief and acceptance and to memory. When we lose someone grief can take hold of us and keep us still, but the memories are what move us past the sorrow and into the light. Schapiro is well acquainted with this journey, and the light song of the warbler enables her to travel beyond the swirl of sadness.

Schapiro plays with poetic form in this collection, creating the shape of cracking porcelain as loss becomes a reality — fragmenting her lines and spacing them like so many shards on the floor — in “Porcelain of Loss.” In this poem, the narrator loses a friend, but the last words they speak are not understood because they must be translated from their native language, but it is not this moment that leaves the narrator shattered, it is the loss itself. The feeling of being unmoored continues in “Gravity,” as the narrator drifts titleless at the funeral — not a relative, not a spouse, not quite a friend because of the age difference — these are the feelings of those left behind. Loss and being lost at the same time. Change is incredibly difficult to handle, especially when it is irrevocable.

Erosion (pg. 49)

happens so slowly
    you don't notice
you're dozing
    earlier each night,
settling deeper
    into your chair.
Between now
    and your youth
a canyon
    has formed. From
above you
    see only tiers
    curving. Too tired
to hike
    (your knees the heat)
you scan postcards
    look for freshwater.

Warbler by Jane Schapiro is reflective of loved ones, of time’s passage, and of the gulf between where we began and where we are as we age and move through life. Her verse is beautiful and meditative, allowing the reader to take the journey with her narrators and experience the shock of unwelcome diagnoses and unexpected death.

RATING: Quatrain

Check out her appearance at Gaithersburg Book Festival with Miles Davis Moore and Naomi Thiers:


Mailbox Monday #609

It now has it’s own blog where book bloggers can link up their own mailbox posts and share which books they bought or which they received for review from publishers, authors, and more.

Leslie, Martha, and I also will share our picks from everyone’s links in the new feature Books that Caught Our Eye. We hope you’ll join us.

Here’s what we received:

A story of THE WORLD before the FENCE by Leeya Mehta, which I purchased from Finishing Line Press.

A Story of The World Before The Fence is a lush, lyrical study of memory and history.  These poems move deftly between the mystical and the known, inviting readers to travel backwards in time and forwards into themselves.  Each of us struggles with the heavy-handedness of the past: its merciless shaping of the larger world and, of course, its unrelenting squeeze on our individual lives.  Through intense reflection and beautiful invention, Leeya Mehta’s poems offer a kind of second sight.

–Tim Seibles

Whether tracing the 10th century journey of religious refugees from Persia to a tender but continually ambivalent asylum in India or dwelling in the complicities and solidarities of our own era, this is a troubled look at belonging, where belonging is ever “like loving a corpse” among “history’s sad funerals”. Mehta’s compassion and clear, unhurried tone leaven the seriousness and ambition of the work’s intellectual horizons, and an emotional power and turbulence as deep as that in certain moods of its Anacostia River: “brown knot of sludge, // a dragon aching.”

–Vivek Narayanan

Through centuries and across continents, Leeya Mehta evokes the transgenerational trauma of her ancestors, the Zoroastrian Parsis, to narratively structure an intimate, feminocentric experience of cultural and personal displacement. Her haunting poems, with their hard-won wisdom and exquisite imagery, serve as “a warning that the screws of love sit deep in the bone” despite—yet, perhaps, because of—the various forms of exile that complicate identities, relationships, and senses of place.  A Story of the World Before the Fence acknowledges “how barriers can keep / wandering spirits separate from those they love,” but it nevertheless consoles us with the miracle that is laughter: a universal language that can still anchor us to one another and help us learn to forgive ourselves for what we have lost along the way.

–Randi Ward

Warbler by Jane Schapiro

Steeped though it is in grief and loss, glory shines through in Jane Schapiro’s new poetry collection, Warbler. As she writes in the book’s epigraph, Tears are the soul bathing itself. There is much melancholy beauty in the book’s dirges, and toward the end, splendor has the last word. In the book’s penultimate poem, azaleas bloom in an explosion of color, from the dark “tangle of shrubs / that spawned such a glorious sight.”

—Rennie McQuilkin, CT Poet Laureate (2015-2018)

Warbler, Jane Schapiro’s new book of poems, is an achingly beautiful paean to family, friendship, love, and memory. It is also a searing reminder that loss, illness, and grief must play their parts as well.

The book has an organic feel, from line to line, from poem to poem. We are pulled into human connection and human frailty. We hear the rabbi say, “Even the blank spaces / are God given” so we keep looking as we move into middle age for peace, for less anxiety, for less pain. Some days “in the mirror, / she’ll spot her former self like a star, / reflecting a fire long since burned out.” And then, “the veil lifts, / reveals the world as a luminous bride . . . / Ah, sweet life. Sweet, inviting life. ”These poems stay in the mind and heart and invite rereading again and again. Warbler sings of hard and beautiful truths in a singular voice.

—Deirdre Neilen, Editor The Healing Muse

What did you receive?