And For The Mouth A Flower is a gritty mystical chronicle of poems revolving how we sanctify and desecrate in a globalized world. Its many voices quest for what lies on the other side of words.
J. TARWOOD has been a dishwasher a community organizer a medical archivist a documentary film producer an oral historian and a teacher. Much of his life has been spent in East Africa Latin America and the Middle East. He has published two previous books The Cats In Zanzibar and Grand Detour. He has always been an unlikely man in unlikely places.
"J. Tarwood's And For The Mouth A Flower remembers some of the original ideas of the Walt Whitman who wrote the Calamus poems-it has something to do with our poor affections for one another and an almost sacred belief that everything profound about this life issues from what is most mundane most unmistakably in the daily life." - Norman Dubie is the author of The Volcano The Insomniac Liar of Topo and The Mercy Seat.
"Ah J. Tarwood's world where words are bullets and bullets are a blessing: The mind's a goat without a bell. Traffic's blood. Ants under a magnifying glass steam like tanks. A teacher's thrashed to a blizzard of bone. Get it? The economy of force. Page after page. Come in. You're welcome." - Bruce Sager is the author of Famous and The Pumping Station two award winning books of poetry
J. Tarwood's And For the Mouth a Flower is the latest poetry collection by one of the nation's most intriguing poets. In this slim volume Tarwood writes of family childhood the natural world and his travels throughout East Africa Latin America and the Middle East. These are poems that grace us with the elegant interplay between the mundane and the exotic. The poet reaches deep within himself while simultaneously searching the globe for his material. These poems are a grand and explicit dialogue between self and world.
The opening poem "Come " is an open invitation to a deceased sibling: "Visit me." The poet speaks with poignant clarity as he summons his dead brother:
You can talk if you like&hellip
You can be quiet too
remembering that dead end
on the Illinois shore
where Mom and Dad made you a home&hellip
Dying young you settled
for being me. But I'm not
forever either. We can
haunt the world together.
In "Home for the Holidays " Tarwood criticizes his father while inventing himself: "Dad had no backbone to spare./I took mine from a squirrel." The poem concludes with an aphoristic aside: "The wise heart is sad and slow."
"A Drinking Man" is yet another family poem. This poem celebrates the poet's father who liked to drink hard spirits: "Bundled good he drank/gifts to shut up his own /each cold shot a threshold/to yet another."
In "Learning to Read " Tarwood evokes a childhood memory of the Dick and Jane primers once used in elementary schools. He thus records the magic moment of understanding when the book came alive for him: "What hocus pocus then/triggered book to talk/till I at last/had to talk back?"
In the subsequent poem "Balloons " the poet pays homage to those common childhood toys. He first categorizes them describing both carnival balloons and parade balloons. He then describes how he once tried to save a balloon: "I stashed one once/in my top drawer./I thought it was my soul./It kept shriveling up//though air was everywhere."
Not just a poet of family and childhood Tarwood is also an exceptional nature poet. "Kingfisher" is a nature poem of profound beauty. Here the poet describes a kingfisher: "Sunshine floats in the flow /melting gold when a sudden/glint of jewelry IDs the bird /green willow blue water melting gold."
In the later poems "Bogota" and "Havana " Tarwood celebrates these two cities he has visited. Another travel poem "Education in Yemen " chronicles an experience he had as a teacher in Yemen when a wild hawk flew against the window: "A hawk swoops into my classroom window." He and the children watch the bird peck at the glass until it finally tires and flies away "soar[ing] off on a sudden thermal /shriveling into nothing/as we head back to words."
Perhaps the loveliest poem in the volume is the love poem "Blue of You." With passion Tarwood writes: "To think of you/is like/a horizon of violins/or a jasmine discovering stoicism:/ blue lingers/a soul/a silence."
As a whole J. Tarwood's "And For the Mouth a Flower" is a stunning collection of poems chronicling events triggered by memories of Tarwood's unusual life experiences. These are passionate poems that overwhelm with their dignity and respect for life. As a fierce master of human perception Tarwood has created a poetics of vibrant insight into the human condition.
- Sonja James is the author of The White Spider in My Hand (New Academia Publishing: Scarith Books 2015) and Calling Old Ghosts to Supper (Finishing Line Press 2013).