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The Plum Flower Dance: Poems 1985 to 2005 (Pitt Poetry Series) Paperback – November 28, 2007
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About the Author
Top Customer Reviews
review by Rafael Alvarez, examiner.com/baltimore
Today, I tell you about a beautiful book of poems: The Plum Flower Dance. And of the man who created it, an American factory worker who embraced the philosophy of the East, was saved by it and became a professor of the great poets who cleared the path before him.
- o -
I can never convince my father
That my best work is done in naps,
In the greenest of grass, near the smell
Of manure, in the song of neighing
And snorting, in the infinite music
That fills the word with bright meaning . . .
- o -
On the far side of the river in my Temple of Books, at the back of a closet deep in the Bleeding Heart of the Holy Land, lies the unpublished memoir of the man who wrote that remarkable stanza: Aafa Michael Weaver.
Titled "Heaven Has No Horses," it sits behind a pair of black Converse high tops worn out at the heel and a pair of cowboy boots from Muleshoe, Texas that always pinched my feet. Weaver's remembrance is guarded by crooked stacks of poetry books: Whitman, to whom Weaver has been compared in earnest; Lorca, Daniel Berrigan and Robert Frost, an overflow waiting for the next shelf.
A poet kid I know in Los Angeles, homeless by the choice in the way Walt Whitman chose to brave the Civil War front to hand out books, found a ragged English text in a coffee house not long ago and raced through it until Frost put the brakes on.
"The beady spider, the flower like a froth . . .
and the moth carried like a paper kite . . ."
Said the kid, hungry but not begging: "The spider is desperate. I relate.Read more ›
In this collection spanning 20 years, Michael Weaver's poetry shows an incisive edge, the sort of sharpness that can slice you when you're not looking or, like a paper cut, get you while you were halfway through a simple, unsuspecting move. This is poetry of subtlety, not a forceful samurai sword that takes your head off before you feel the blade. His writing comes at you directly, with apparent innocence, until you feel the sting and see the blood. People and places are deeply felt and tightly focused. The clues to this depth---underwater, in a cemetery, behind walls---are arranged in elemental sections: Gold, Water, Wood, Fire, Earth, which (as the author notes) are the Daoist creative path. Yes, the poetry is that basic, that powerful, the simple work of a Tai Chi master (which he is) or a factory worker (which he was) or a man maintaining strong family, geographic, and loving connections.
And pure. Consider these three lines about a young man and an old woman leaving church:
"Through the benediction and the hush,
we walk together outside, an unusual machine
turning on the pistons of forgiveness and curiosity."
Or this opening line: "The fist is a hand that has made decisions.Read more ›
bears rereading, for it opens to deeper understanding of class as well as race, of the journey to heal as well as the story of harm, in ways both moving and insightful. I read through the book before I read in the notes that the poems are organized according to the "five elements of Chinese philosophy," which, placed in this order--gold, water, wood, fire, and earth--serve to construct the "Creative Path." I read for the logic of the poems together, and the synergy of their placement. Each section opens with a crystalline, koan-like verse (excerpted from Ten Lights of God), and then moves into meditations on relations (of father to son, of poet to self, of self to loss), origins--both personal and cultural--and poetic investigations that are radically, delicately innovative.
"Wood," opens with a meditation on how the speaker's mother's voice "chang[ed] up for white folk," which the speaker neither likes nor understands, significantly, "how Mama taught me translation." I found such scenes of code-switching, often performed in the poem that is contemplating the action, incisive and subtle analysis. From there we move to poems that dwell on the complexities of making a living in the black community that fights poverty and the casual or concerted racism. But there are also, importantly, poems of great celebration--of jazz, of Civil Rights, of cultural heritage and plain speech. Yet there's nothing plain-spoken about Weaver's poetics or portraits. Weaver soars easily through riffs of allusions ("in the shadows of the lilacs in the last door") and alights in the garden of black heritage.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Bought this on an impulse buy. I did not care for it as the poems are taken from the author's life and I would have LOVED to have some surrounding context to know where/how he is... Read morePublished 9 months ago by M
I cited Weaver's Plum Flower Dance as one of my "favorite things" from 2007 for a special episode of my regular videocast E-Verse Radio. Read morePublished on December 15, 2008 by Ernest Hilbert