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Forged by Joy

ISBN: 9781943826193
Publisher: Antrim House
Publication Date: 2017-01-03
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  • Regular price $28.76

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Late in the day, when the light falls across the hills that fold down to a river valley, you can see each layer of the landscape outlined all the way out to the horizon. The poems in this book are stories of the play of light and shadow across such a landscape, seen in retrospect, as though from a higher elevation. Like my grandmother, I have kept these stories close to me for decades, have puzzled and wrestled and prayed my way through the living of them, and sometimes have written them down.

"Laura Mazza-Dixon's Forged by Joy is a test of light against time, from innocence to loss, a spiritual autobiography seen first through a girl's eyes that behold wonder in everything, including stones - 'sea-polished ovals, green trapezoids laced with gold' - and forged through a life of art and love and loss, arriving at the question, 'Can joy weigh more than grief?' These are graceful, softly cadenced poems of belief carried against the final darkness we all face." Doug Anderson, poet and author of Blues for Unemployed Secret Police

Of the book, Forged by Joy poet Tryfon Tolides, winner of the National Book Award for Poetry, writes that "Laura Mazza-Dixon weaves a community in the poems of her first book. She draws her own design of what a family tree might look like. In addition to relatives, her tree contains friends and people she's never met, such as the composers Arvo PArt (who 'sought solace / in silence'), and J.S. Bach, various writers and artists, and her readers. Art and joy balance what is painful and dark. All of it - beauty, joy, grief, death - is 'encompassed by grandeur.'

"There are beautiful, simple, resonant details: 'in the room/ where the lights came through the venetian blinds/ and crawled up the wall when the big truck climbed the hill.' She recalls the 'texture' of days, and her father on the pitcher's mound 'with your weight on one leg, ' or snow melting 'down the slope/ of the broad hill.' In 'New Year's Day, ' 'The year is off/ to a slow beginning.// A day of steady rain and small tasks.' In the poem, Mazza-Dixon imagines Bach walking, '[h]is head down, / his shoulders stooped / lost in thought, ' as she listens to one of his compositions. The posture repeats in 'Chaucer's Nephew, ' whose 'habit of listening/ as he walked alongside/ the other pilgrims, / his head down, eyes on the path, made it possible for him/ to observe them without/ them knowing it.'

"There are no shortcuts in her plain, methodical, artful approach to writing and to honoring the lives of others and discovering more about her own. She gets there by an honest deliberation and poetry, by learning and having learned to wait, by listening, which is the refrain in the collection's last poem, Rondo for Wood Thrush and Salamander.

How does she work? Just as her brother's grave was dug by her father and brothers, and just as her garden was dug by her, Laura Mazza-Dixon's poems are 'dug by hand.' No fancy machines do the work, but the presence of a mature attention, and time taken to be with things and the lives of others, and with the poems. This quality of attentiveness and patience is our only way of understanding anything. In a world and an age where we fling more at each other than listen, Mazza-Dixon shows us what taking time is. We learn by following the ways and delights of her poems. And we, too, 'can be grateful.' "

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