Saturday, May 31, 2014



Hoard by Jaime Robles
(Shearsman Books, Bristol, U.K., 2013)

Because I was immersed in an archaeological-ish type of project at the time I read Jaime Robles’ Hoard, I was led to focus on a group of poems described as such in the Acknowledgements section:

Many of the poems in this collection were inspired by the Hoxne treasure, which is housed in the British Museum.  The Hoxne treasure is a hoard of gold and silver domestic items—jewellery, plates, spoons, spice boxes and coins—a cache likely assembled by women. In the chaos of the late Roman and Anglo-Saxon periods in Britain, valuables were buried as a means of keeping them safe.”

A basic challenge here would be to avoid mere description, and Robles’ deft leaps as she transforms images and objects into perceptions elevate the poems.  Robles’ gift is shown in other poems not in the above-described group, e.g. the insufficiency of connection in, from “White Swan

“Why is it now
impossible for us to meet—
we who were bound together
like the strands of a close woven basket
impermeable to water”

followed by a section wherein is offered “each leaf a stray declaration // lifted by wind // until the stem breaks loose from its lean connection.”  (One could closer-read this by considering what “wind” stands for—if it’s praise (it lifts), it also repels that to which the connection is lean…Anyway, to the Hoxne poems—)

In the poem “Spice Boxes,” for instance,

…Hercules’ struggle
reduced to three inches in height

made me pause in my read to reread the two lines, savoring them.  I can’t recall being so charmed by a description of time’s effect. Charmed, even as the matter at hand is not charming.  Perhaps the two lines just reveal the gods’ warped sense of humor…

Too, this lovely extrapolation in “Diatrita (opus interassile)”: from a poem written “after two gold bracelets,” is the description of a “piercing of gold, / … / the metal lace-like— / its past / unseeable, shifting” before continuing alchemized into

like a voice that shifts to echo
and locates us

One more radiant example would be “Her upper arm, festooned” which relates to a gold armlet.  The poem begins

Under his gaze her upper arm, which seems only bone,
barely fleshed,
is a pier stretching out into sea water and pleasure,
knobs at each end, planed and birdlike, seeking ligature
and the hollow sound of his footsteps—
above the smell of sky, the capacious exile of snow

These are poems that, like many great poems, enhance perception, even enabling the looking at the world with fresh eyes.  That the writing is also clear, delicate, and seemingly-effortless only increases their lovely—and loving—effect.


Eileen Tabios does not let her books be reviewed by Galatea Resurrects because she's its editor (the exception would be anthologies she edits because they focus on other poets as well).  She is pleased, though, to point you elsewhere to recent reviews of her work.  Soffwana Yasmnin engages her poem "Jade" from her THE THORN ROSARY: SELECTED PROSE POEMS AND NEW (19980-2010)  Her latest book, 147 MILLION ORPHANS (MMXI-MML), is also reviewed by Joey Madia at New Mystics Reviews as well as at Book Masons Cafe Press Website and Literary Aficionado.

And her latest anthology as editor, VERSES TYPHOON YOLANDA, receives an engagement in this issue of GR by Aileen Ibardaloza; at Manila Standard Today by Jenny Ortuoste; at North American Review by Vince Gotera;  and at Philippine Inquirer by Luis H. Francia.

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