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Windows of Snow by Elizabeth Revere
Poems of strange presences tangles with family relationships and perplexed emotions

"I am very pleased to have this collection of Elizabeth Revere's poems. The book is handsomely produced; the front cover is a reproduction of one of her eerie paintings, the tone and mood matching those of the poems.

"These poems are odd, oblique and often strike the very heart. They are poems of distance, sorrow and strange presences. The images shift and change abruptly and decisively, the poems are infused with a claustrophobic sense of the past, of tangled lines of family relationships, of perplexed emotions.

"In 'Lilacs,' for instance, the speaker has 'no hands to keep / yu still, no butterfly / to touch your tangled / arms.' We don't know who 'you' are, although he or she seems to be a family member; the next stanza speaks of great grandfather, whose 'house drops its shingles.' The old, deteriorating house is an image of pain and loss: 'Grass sweeps up round / it, and dark windows / breathe.' We readers do not know the players or the plot, but the scene is well established, and the mood a resonance of loss. The last stanza reads:

Fallen limbs bleach

with faces of children.

and veiled on the trellis

lilacs are ghosts

pale lilacs, pale lilacs.

"This is a world where nothing is only itself, but resonates with reflections of other beings, a world where things mingle, merge, and exchange identities.

"It is a haunted world, an occult world, the same New England prowled by Hawthorne's strange peddlers and tormented consciences, by Emily Dickenson's minute precisions, by explorers of the psychic.

"It is not, for me, an appealing world, but it is compelling and memorable. And it is not all darkness and hidden presence. 'March Snow' imagines a deer's responses to a spring snowfall, and expresses a waiting for the future, for newness:

The willow throws

down its yellow

hair and waits for

the bluebird.

"And yet, even here, nature in the willow is endowed with a disquieting feminine presence.

"Elizabeth Revere's poems are populated with people, sometimes named in the title ('My Father Can You See Me,' 'The Holly Tree, for Ann,' 'Mother,' 'Marie,' and 'Jenny,' among others), and sometimes simply addressed as 'you' in the poem. These poems are not focused on the poet herself, but on the world she experiences and its people.

"Technically, Elizabeth Revere writes free verse, but somehow the label seems inaccurate. Her own sense is that, far from being 'free,' her versification is dictated by the subject of the poem and her strong response to it. I do not know what a careful analysis would reveal, and such analysis seems out of place. Her poems are well-made, however. Two stanzas, the first and last, from 'My Father Can You See Me,' illustrate her tone and techniques well.

The meadow's golden under my

feet. I'm a shadow

I can't look back

it's my flesh.


The house has mist on its panes,

My father can you see your

misty child beside you

by the tree?

--Eugene Warren, Christianity and Literature

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"... The 78-page,  softbound book is a most attractive print job. The cover, in various shades of grey, presents the reproduction of a painting by the author, 'Forgotten,' showing the ruin of a Gothic church or castle, framing two large openings that once were windows, standing on a craggy hillside. In the right foreground is a gnarled, leafless tree -- and both the tree and the "forgotten" relic of a once noble structure are covered with snow.

"It's a dour scene, perhaps, but it serves as a poignant prologue and guidepost to the poems within the little book. If you gaze intently at the picture you will find (as I did) at least eight ghosts guarding the windows, arches and towers and beckoning yu to the mystic land, created by the poet where houses and alleged inanimate things have souls and can communicate with sensitive mortals.

"Ruth's pen name, as the cover indicates, is 'Elizabeth Revere' -- but, in truth, it's more than a pseudonym, for her full name is 'Ruth Elizabeth Revere Raby'!

"The book also contains a striking photograph of RERR, plus biographical notes; a foreword by Professor Herbert R. Coursen who guided and encouraged the poet when she was learning her craft; and the back cover is devoted to a photo by RERR of First Justice John Jay's mansion, built by his son Peter, since, as Coursen writes, "Elizabeth Revere's world is full of old houses, now abandoned ... and the ghosts of our ancestors remembered with the fulfillment of a grandmother's 'molasses cookies.' "

"As for the 63 poems: To enjoy them thoroughly the reader must accept their mystic parameters and metaphysical abstractions that embrace elaborate subtleties of thought and expression. He must accept the poets belief in animism and that there can be 'sermons in stones and books in the running brooks,' and he must hone his perceptions.

"RERR lends common words new dimensions, new nuances. Reading her poems is a challenge that's worth accepting, but don't expect to find complete understanding on the first go-around!

"All of you who remember the stunning land and seascapes that Ruth Raby painted in oil during the 1950s and '60s, will find, I'm sure, a relationship between them and the poems in this collection which she started writing in the early 1970s. Like "Forgotten," which graces the front cover of Windows of Snow, many of them lamented past glories or revealed storm-tossed sailing ships, cresting waves and ominous, rocky shores. Her paintings were as melodramatic as Wagner's "The Flying Dutchman," and very greatly admired when hung in Art Society of Old Greenwich shows and one-man exhibits in local banks.

"RERR's poems ... are ... most impressive in their emphasis on tragedies known by human beings." --Wake Hartley, Village Gazette

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"[Revere] ... writes of old houses peopled with ghosts, of relatives remembered, of the mystic experiences one can feel on the water or at its edge. Out of contemporary events as yard sales or the traffic on Sound Beach Avenue, she draws insights that tell us about the subjects of her poems and also about ourselves. As you read her verse, a slight mist seems to be moving across the page, obscuring the present and evoking the past. ... her identity is clearly established in the handsomely printed volume, which also exhibits her other talents, with one of her paintings on the cover." --Pyke Johnson Jr., Greenwich Time
Pyke Johnson Jr. is former managing editor of Doubleday.

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Windows of Snow by Elizabeth Revere

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