Today I am pleased to host Deborah Bennison regarding the latest publication from her independent press. This volume was truly a labor of love, exhibiting the excellence of content and presentation always representative of Bennison Books.
Readers of Diane’s blog may already be familiar with the New England poet Cynthia Jobin, whose blog attracted many followers worldwide. Admirers of her work will be delighted to learn that a collection of her poetry, Song of Paper, has just been published by Bennison Books.
With a fine intelligence and shining poetic sensibility, Cynthia documents the joys and griefs that mark the common humanity of our everyday lives. She explores the inexplicable exhilaration and longing that love brings and courageously delineates the crushing desolation she felt at losing her lifelong partner.
The magnificent sequence of poems which close the collection trace the journey towards her own impending death and the deeply moving acceptance with which she finally faced it.
Excerpt from the introduction
Shortly before her death in late 2016, Cynthia entrusted her poetic legacy to the UK poet John Looker who had long admired her work. The following is an excerpt from John’s introduction to Song of Paper:
Cynthia Jobin’s poetry is skillfully crafted and both erudite and accessible. She wrote about the mysteries of life, her grief following the death of her partner of 43 years, love and friendship, the joy of pets and the landscape of New England. She also translated French poetry. There was a depth of feeling and an unobtrusive intellect at work, but equally a lightness of touch and humour. The poems in this collection show that variety of theme and equally her range of tone; she would write just for fun as well as with serious intent.
When reading a new poem from Cynthia Jobin I have always had that comfortable feeling of being in good hands: we know that the verses are going to be impeccably crafted but we can’t predict what path they will take.
I am sure that new readers and old friends alike will discover this for themselves on reading this collection. The title, Song of Paper, comes from the opening poem and feels so apposite. The closing poem, which was also the last she ever posted in life, and which shows humour even in the midst of wisdom and courage, is an immensely moving reflection from someone who knew herself to be very close to death.
Below are extracts from two poems included in this collection
and the full version of ‘To a Tulip’.
Extract from ‘The Palpable Obscure’:
Once a day, at least, I stop to wonder
where you are. I do not think of
you as being here. Except, tonight
a heightening of powers in the darkness
wants to break November from October
with a cold slap and a small wail in the wind.
Something more than me, something much
more sure that you abide, this night, brings
you, in ways that I can almost touch.
Extract from ‘Riviera Reverie’:
The boy cat, all noblesse oblige,
takes his reserved, tacitly acknowledged place.
Drawn to their warm, imaginary blankets
spread upon the floor, these beloved creatures
bring to mind the worshipful habitués
of Côte d’Azur, Côte d’Or. As the sun reaches
they respond, grab on, luxuriate
and, for this brief moment, even teach.
Should a phone call come for any one of them
I’ll say they are away, gone to the beach.
To a Tulip
standing in a cobalt vase,
stemmed sacramental cup –
winter was hard
but now your simple grace
is green announcement:
things are looking up.
There by the window you
to sunlight are the antiphon,
beauty new as beauties past,
life should carry on.
Yet you become
most beautiful at last,
when age and death are
what you must fulfill:
come that night
you can no longer
close against the dark,
you open wide until
you are all heart,
and every petal knows
translucence as it falls.
You could be hinting
how to do it, for us all.
Copyright Cynthia Jobin estate; Bennison Books.