REVIEW: THE SKY IS SHOOTING BLUE ARROWS
REVIEW OF THE SKY IS SHOOTING BLUE ARROWS (UNIVERSITY OF NEW MEXICO PRESS) BY JOHN RIDLAND
Glenna Luschei is not merely a woman of experience but of many experiences. Also, of many books: twenty-two collections and chapbooks, and five artist books. This new one touches on many places lived in and traveled to. But Glenna is not a regional poet or a traveling poet taking pretty pictures. Always there are people in them.
Many are family, seven generations, Americans before the nation was. This land was their land, which Glenna inherits, as a poet. The genius loci often is her muse. When a storm squall scudding in from the Pacific “beats [her] to [her] van” on Mount Tamalpais: “You fall in love with water again.”
Abroad, she prays to a reclining Buddha: “I accept that all is illusion, /everything vanishes.”
Fine! Except the story ends: “When I left the temple, /even my shoes had disappeared.”
Other poems retrace the Westward journey of her ancestors, their prairie schooners leaving ruts in the earth, which Glenna likens to ancient Roman chariot wheel grooves in granite. When other settlers came running, “Indian raid!” her “Great-grandfather John,/unafraid, staked his claim/and made his dugout home.”
After the Civil War, the brothers, California-bound, “shipped their pianos around the Cape.” As in Jane Campion’s movie The Piano, that was one instrument of civilization they hoped would leave its mark on the land. But the land would make its mark on them, too, as in “the grasshopper plague/when we covered/the wheat field/with quilts.” Details like those quilts vouch for the authenticity of Glenna’s voice.
The note of underplayed humor is everywhere, even facing the most serious subject, death: “I am just waiting in my place/behind the others. No shoving..../Will I go gentle like the ones/who went before?” Or “... will I bolt like the astrologer/who carried his pallet/into the desert on the day/forecast for his death?” (Pretty safe, right?) “Nothing could attack him there/except the swallow that dropped/the fatal pebble on his head.” It seems we’d better accept our destinies, like Glenna on the day her shoes vanished.
The Sky Is Shooting Blue Arrows is dedicated to her daughter Linda Glenn Luschei, who died as young as Mozart. Aged five, she had written a true blue-arrow poem: "I am the bicycle. I come along/ to brighten the way. I ride away/leaving everybody happy." —as a book as assured as this will do.
Glenna Luschei is the author of more than twenty-five books and is the founder and publisher of Solo Press. She lives in San Luis Obispo, California.
John M. Ridland was born in London in 1933 of Scottish ancestry, but has lived most of his life in California. He taught writing and literature for over forty years in the English Department and the College of Creative Studies at the University of California in Santa Barbara, where he still lives. His poems have appeared in well over 200 poems in journals such as The Hudson Review, The Atlantic, The New Yorker, Poetry, Able Muse, and Sewanee Review, and others. With Peter Czipott he has just publish}|ed a selection of poems by Miklós Radnóti, All That Still Matters at All (New American Press, Madison, WI, 2014). They are now translating poems by Dezsö Kosztolányi.