Following the Curve
By Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg
Review by Roy J. Beckemeyer
At 50 pages, Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg’s Following the Curve (2017, Spartan Press, Kansas City, MO) lies on the cusp between chapbook and book: a five- by eight-inch, lovingly-executed, perfect-bound booklet of poems brimming with wisdom and emotion.
The unifying theme of the collection is yoga. Mirriam-Goldberg’s poem, “The Women Learn the Invocation to Patanjali,” begins:
“We start yogena cittasya padena vacam,
the long vowels small pebbles in our mouths…
We want to arrive together in the lush clearing
These italicized quotes from the Invocation to Patanjali encapsulate the heart and soul of this book: enjoining mind, words, and speech to bring purification, clarity, palpable insight into what it means to live in these bodies of ours. These poems are tangible, tactile:
“…you bend your knees and sink to the ground
like a black colt in the moon grass”
—from “Getting Started”
“Let your forearms land, happy engines,
parked in the soft grass…
Be small, a clam wedging its way into the sand…
the air cups your curved spine of stories …”
—from “Child’s Pose (Balasana)”
“Lift your chest, broaden your collarbones,
legs straight, hamstrings hugging bone,
heart both bowing and rising as the sun
pulls the tops of trees higher.”
(—from “In the Middle of the Yoga Studio”)
You don’t need to practice yoga to appreciate Mirriam-Goldberg’s poems; they will still leave you recalling moments from your life, re-experiencing them in a new, vivid light. I found myself remembering struggles to regain health—
“Start with nothing but mild exhaustion,
a headache, a warehouse of excuses…
Start with whatever small will remains to try again…
as the humidity of the room loosens the old skins
of what you could never do…”
—from “Finding the Fire (Tapas)”
—but also exulting in that recovery:
“…the woman who woke from the old pain,
and put on her walking shoes to head out into billions
of atoms shifting into fire or flower at every turn.”
—from “I Love This Body That’s Not the Way I Thought”
The last lines of the book’s last poem, “Your Body is a Conversation with the World,” sum it all up quite well:
“Time tells its stories through your body,
so yoked to this love that it cannot stop singing.”
What more could we wish to derive from poetry? Or from yoga?
Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg, Kansas Poet Laureate Emerita (2009-2013), is also founder of The Transformative Language Arts Network, an organization that supports and promotes use of the spoken, written, or sung word as a tool for personal and community transformation.
You can read more about Caryn at the Map of Kansas Literature. Her blog is at http://www.carynmirriamgoldberg.com/blog/.
Signed copies of Following the Curve can be ordered HERE.
Roy J. Beckemeyer is a retired engineer and scientific journal editor who lives in Wichita, Kansas. He currently studies the Paleozoic insect fossils of Alabama, Kansas, and Oklahoma, and writes poetry. His first book of poetry, Music I Once Could Dance To (Coal City Press, Lawrence, KS 2014) was selected as a 2015 Kansas Notable ook. He won the Beecher’s Magazine Poetry Contest in 2014, and the Kansas Voices Poetry Award in 2016. He recently co-edited (with Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg) Kansas Time+Place: An Anthology of Heartland Poetry (Little Balkans Press, Pittsburg, KS 2017).