“She of the Dreaming Sky” (2005) took time to assimilate. Randall describes her poetry as “spiritual poetry” and that is true. The challenge when reading “spiritual poetry” is not to be intimidated or put off by the intimacy expressed by the poet. A spiritual expression, in my mind, is an effort to get at as direct as possible the point of entry where the artist makes first contact with the word, music, image, motion, or other creative endeavor without judgement as it enters his or her conscious awareness. Anyone who can do this well for an entire poetry collection is to be commended.
Western European art and poetry often desire to use the entire planet’s cultural treasure chest in its creative expression. Randall uses the entire North American cultural palette with a deft hand. Some individuals may find reflections of their own insecurities in her poetry, and criticize her for that perceived appropriation. My response to such complaints is two questions: Who are you to order the structure of image or sound or voice of the interaction of a soul and spirit at point of contact? What are you projecting onto what is in front of you?
The poems within “She of the Dreaming Sky” took time to unwrap. I selected it from the bookstore shelf because it was the first woman-authored poetry collection I pulled from the shelf. First read-through I was disappointed. The poems felt cliché and, as someone who has over the years hung out with Tai Chi practitioners and aging hippies, tired. Then, I would read a line or phrase whose clarity stunned me.
Reading the poems in “She of the Dreaming Sky” is like watching an autumn cloudy sky being cleared of gray clouds by a brisk north wind. The clouds are moving, going somewhere, and a patch of painfully blue sky appears above you. The brilliant blue sky is there existing behind the clouds all the time. You as reader must have patience to wait for the clouds to clear. One after another the poems became clear – or I became clear – with the passage of time.
The book comes with a compact disc sound recording of eight poems from “She of the Dreaming Sky” read with music in the background. This is a good multi-media presentation of the work. Artwork throughout the collection is by Randall. It all looks and sounds good.
“She of the Dreaming Sky” made me cognizant of what I project onto the world. I had to work for that realization, and to appreciate the quality of these poems. This collection contains many more good to excellent poems than okay to “meh” poems that you see in other collections identifying themselves as “spiritual poetry”. It is easy for “spiritual poetry” to be cloyingly grocery store cake frosting sweet, extremely earnest, and downright icky in my opinion. Randall avoids those pitfalls by crafting her poems to get to as close as she can to that point of contact between the subconscious and that part of her that devises words.
I have not located a website for either Diane C. Randall or her publisher Pearl’s Book ‘em Publisher. “She of the Dreaming Sky” is available on online and through your favorite local bookstore or library.
If you are interested in “spiritual jazz” I would recommend Raven Wolf C. Felton Jennings II. He creates spiritual jazz of the St. Louis tradition and is phenomenal. Pug Dog Records is his own label. As Raven Wolf says, “Change your music, change your life”. http://www.pugdogrecords.com/node/9