On discovering Lola Ridge while visiting Terese Svoboda's website; or, Poetry, Personal Loss, and Remembrance
how it would be here with you,
where the wind
that has shaken off its dust in low valleys
touches one cleanly,
as with a new-washed hand,
is as the remote hunger of droning things,
but a little silence
sinking into the great silence.
~ Lola Ridge from Sun-Up and Other Poems (1920)
Lola Ridge was a poet and activist; an advocate for immigrants, women, and the working class. I'd never heard of her until this afternoon, after spending some time on Terese Svoboda's website. Svoboda, an accomplished poet, novelist, and activist herself, will publish Anything That Burns You: A Portrait of Lola Ridge, Radical Poet in early 2016, and I can't wait to read it, to discover more about this remarkable woman and artist, Lola Ridge.
Terese Svoboda is a remarkable author herself. A Drink Called Paradise remains for me one of the most memorable -- and poetic -- novels I've ever read. Juxtaposing the tragic consequences of a nation's shameful history of atomic testing in the South Pacific with a bereaved mother's rumination on the loss of her son, it's searing images are indeed as luminous as the sun. It was the last novel I read and reviewed before the sudden and unexpected death of my own daughter, in late December, 2013. The pent-up grief that Clare shared in A Drink Called Paradise as well as the collective grief of the Pacific Islanders Clare encountered there, still recovering -- or, rather, reeling -- from the covered-up crimes of the United States government committed against them over half-a-century ago, naturally melded into my individual experience of grief over my daughter, so that her loss and the memory of it is inextricably intertwined in my remembrance and reading of Terese Svoboda's novel. Svoboda just feels to me like the right poet to tackle the life of the forgotten poet Lola Ridge. Thanks largely to Svoboda's soon-to-be released biography, I suspect Lola Ridge isn't going to remain forgotten for long. I know it'll be a long, long time, before I forget Terese Svoboda or A Drink Called Paradise. . . .
Here's another poem by Lola Ridge from Sun-Up and Other Poems:
Your love was like moonlight
turning harsh things to beauty,
so that little wry souls
reflecting each other obliquely
as in cracked mirrors...
beheld in your luminous spirit
their own reflection,
transfigured as in a shining stream,
and loved you for what they are not.
You are less an image in my mind
than a luster
I see you in gleams
pale as star-light on a gray wall...
evanescent as the reflection of a white swan
shimmering in broken water.
And another, this one from The Ghetto, and Other Poems (1918):
The crackle of the palm trees
Over the mooned white roofs of the town...
The shining town...
And the tender fumbling of the surf
On the sulphur-yellow beaches
As we sat... a little apart... in the close-pressing night.
The moon hung above us like a golden mango,
And the moist air clung to our faces,
Warm and fragrant as the open mouth of a child
And we watched the out-flung sea
Rolling to the purple edge of the world,
Yet ever back upon itself...
And mooned white memory
Of a tropic sea...
How softly it comes up
Like an ungathered lily.