The best poetry—great poetry—happens when sound, rhythm, and image bring about a mysterious feeling of wholeness that somehow draws mind, body, and spirit together in what both Yeats and Eliot envisioned as a unified dance. What we call “the power of the word” is really a pattern of words in a rhythm originating in heartbeat and footfall. Language, like the human mind, consists of a conscious and an unconscious element, and what “real” poetry can do, even when it looks like prose on the page, is to reproduce the hidden music we are all born hearing but often lose as we grow up. The danger today lies in pursuing novelty beyond a point of no return, of technically “making it new” until we no longer hear anything but the virtual pulse of a spoiled, overmechanized civilization that is destroying its childhood as it ages, boasting the while of its progress. Fortunately for us, Catharine Savage Brosman’s latest collection of poetry, A Memory of Manaus, is a canon of what matters, and affirms the kind of ultimate good sense of our art.
In the title poem that opens the book, the narrator, along with her husband, Pat, and other travelers, have
come by boat upriver some nine hundred miles
along the Amazon, and reached its origins,
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