Native Joy: Poems Songs Visions Dreams 1963-2003 by Geoffrey Oelsner,
Trafford Publishing (www.trafford.com)
With so many people now writing poems and so many new poets in print, whether in traditional or nontraditional book form, I am captured by poets who don’t just write well, but poets whose poems tell the story of an ever expanding consciousness, poets whose work pushes me to keep re-examining the journey of my own life, pushes me to keep growing my own circles of awareness. The great American poets always remind us that poetry begins most richly in “the spirit of place.” The great Sufi poets tell us that the spiritual journey ends in joy. The title of Geoffrey Oelsner’s remarkable book tells us that his own journey begins in the native American landscape—in his case, Kansas, Oklahoma, and the Ozarks of Arkansas—but it moves inexorably towards spiritual awakening and joy.
Oelsner, a clinical social worker and also a musician and song writer, has been writing and harvesting his poems for over forty years. The poems gather up the threads of childhood, but spin them into a mature consciousness that is by turns sharply descriptive, calmly insightful, humorous, and ecstatic. At times, Oelsner approaches something that feels shamanic in the poems, something old-soul-like, drawing upon an easy kinship with Native American myth and lore and with the vision quest of the spiritual warrior. There are deeply personal poems, too, of loss and celebration, of mourning for the death of the father, of tenderness towards a beloved brother, and intimate poems that are wonderfully erotic love-poems, tantric poems of sexual union and illumination.
I travel a lot in my work, and so I look for books of poems that can travel well with me, that can keep me company through a variety or changing landscapes and inner experiences, that keep me alert to the possibilities of revelation. The great contemporary Polish poet Adam Zagajewski is one such poet. Geoffrey Oelsner is another. Sometimes when you’ve finished a book, you want the poet for a friend. Better still, when you’ve finished this book, the poet is a friend.
Reviewed by Sandford Lyne.
© Sandford Lyne
Loch Raven Review Fall 2005 Vol. I, No. 1
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