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After the Jug Was Broken Paperback – December 15, 2010
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In her book of poetry, Leah Shelleda, "gatherer of shards", sings the world and psyche into wholeness. Whether she is speaking in the voice of a character in myth, or speaking in her own heartfelt voice of the places she has visited, she re-members for us that Myth, Place, Experience, and Spirit are One. Shelleda's After the Jug Was Broken, an incantation of healing, begs to be read aloud. Through the fruit of suffering, and transformation through beauty, "where spirit spins cosmic webs", the reader is forever changed. --Patricia Damery, author of Farming Soul
About the Author
Leah Shelleda is Professor Emeritus of Humanities and Philosophy at the College of Marin. Her poems have appeared in many journals and anthologies, and her chapbook, A Flash of Angel, won the Blue Light Press prize. She is a weaver of wall hangings as well as words, and an ardent gardener.
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In the title poem in "After the Jug Was Broken," Leah Shelleda writes that if the vessels were too fragile to contain the light, "Then I will be a gatherer of shards." Shelleda organizes her shards in this luminous collection of sparks into Myth, Experience, Place and Spirit.
Some of the shards are transcendent. In Myth, her "Invocation" asks the Lamias of old to "Send sudden gusts of wild song" and Mary Magdalene asks again the old riddle, "How may a woman also enter?"
Some of the shards are sharp. In Experience, "The Memory of Light" cuts deep when it says "How rare when joy enters history/like fireworks and lasting/about as long" and "Extinct Birds" draws blood when it says "The Great Auk the Madagascar hawk/ the last ones died of indifference."
Some of the shards are kaleidoscopic, reflecting the visions of multiple places. In Place, Shelleda writes in "Behind the Sacred Heart" that she doesn't want to write about the Sacred Heart, preferring to tell us about a dream "of an openhearted wise man/who arrives four times a year/once in each season/but that comes later/in a language/that is not yet spoken."
None of the shards are like the shards of broken pottery displayed dead under glass in museums. They shine with their apportioned photons of light. They live and breathe and if we take them into ourselves with our apportioned share of the infinite breath, we will be changed in ways we should not try to predict. In Spirit, the final poem "Heenayni," whispers "I am here/here in this world as it is."
"Heenayni," from the Hebrew for "I am here" is, according to the students of the ancient texts, the moment where categories, worlds, photons and shards come together and the poet and the reader of the poems experience the whole as divine and as one.
Shelleda divides her collection into four parts: Mythos (utterly extraordinary sensitive works recalling mythological and real people in a manner that stirs the imagination); Empeiria/Experience; Topos/Place (exotic ports of pleasure and the unknown); Pneuma/Spirit. If her quarto suggests philosophical bent, then the reader has successfully entered her world. Poetry of this caliber doesn't just roll off the pen: these poems represent a mind's activity that is at all times exploring the aspects of living we too often ignore. As the opening to her invitation to her four part journey she offers the following poem:
AFTER THE JUG WAS BROKEN
Once there was a vessel
Didn't an ancient potter spin clay
a blacksmith hammer bronze?
Didn't all we knew and all
that was known coalesce
in that jug
or was it just the shape of
our hands caressing
Was it the brain fired
in the kiln of our body
the millennia of myths
the spirits arrayed
in our painted dreams
singing a map
of the world?
Some say the world shattered
in its making vessels too fragile
to hold such luminosity
Then I will be a gatherer of shards
Such is the invitation Leah Selleda offers her reader - an reexamination of our beginnings, our pasts, and the delights of finding meaning to events and matters thought to be occult. Grady Harp, April 11