Dave Bonta at Via Negativa is reviewing a ton of poetry this month. One of the books he reviewed early in April sounded right up my alley, and I liked the excerpt he posted, so I got myself a copy. The book is Balance, by Robbi Nester. It features fifteen poems, each paired with an ink-and-brush drawing of a yoga pose. The yoga poses are part of B.K.S. Iyengar's system; the brush paintings are by Nina Canal, and they are both beautiful in themselves and useful illustrations of the poses out of which the poems arose.
The poems relate to the yoga poses, or offer new interpretations of the yoga poses, or open windows into the author's life experience through the prism of the yoga poses. They manage to both be rooted in the yoga, and to transcend it.
I suspect these poems would work for readers who don't do yoga; reading them, I'm reminded of my own experiences with yoga (which are, alas, some years ago now, and I've never committed to the practice enough to call myself any kind of yogini!) but I'm also able to relate to poems which arise out of poses I never attempted or never managed. Ultimately I relate to these poems as poems about life and spiritual experience, rather than poems about anything my body can (or can't) do.
The quote on the back of the book from R. H. W. Dillard reads, "Whether one is nimble and supple enough to actually practice the fifteen yoga positions that form the subjects of the poems in Robbi Nester's Balance, one will discover that these poems do what both yoga and the best poetry have always done: take one deeply within the confines of an experience while simultaneously expanding one's awareness of the limitlessness of that very same experience." Word.
Here's one of my favorites:
I am rowing my boat
along the quiet river.
My ribs open like a magnolia
flower, its stiff white petals
only this morning furled
in the burnished bud.
Legs strung tight as sails
I hoist myself up, out of the hip,
arranging my torso, vessel
of previous cargo, over the knees.
Currents lap at my sides
as I surge forward, pulling
the oars of my feet
till the miles fall away.
This is lovely stuff. Thanks Dave, for the rec, and thanks Robbi for the collection. (It's available on Amazon for a mere $12.)