Author: Charlotte Mandel
Critic: Glenville Ashby, PhD
Charlotte Mandel has long proven her salt as an inimitable poet. Expectedly, with bated breath we wait her every offering. To Be the Daylight adds yet another layer to an already impressive oeuvre and arguably marks the apotheosis of her poetic journey. With flawless, timing, structure and imagery, her work simmers with philosophical activism.
In this quantum template, all time is one. The past, present and future melt into a single experience. We are enfolded by a single, predetermined cosmological dance. Life and death; joy and pain; and sorrow and gaiety jockey for attention in a single rapturous stream of consciousness.
Mandel concedes that we are weighed down by life’s gravity and burdens; that we are ripped asunder by cruelties that we create, that we are locked in an existential drama. Still, there looms a respite that is sure, timely and purposeful.
Ancient Love is an artful lesson on the infinity of time. Here, the immortality of life, the paradox of love and the compelling intrigue of history are explored.
“Why disturb bones that lay in close embrace six thousand years?” Mandel probes. “Age twenty when they died, strong limbs entwined, glow of youth in each face…Did they live their life in material comfort – not likely for they wore no gold. Diggers uncovered no sartorial clues, no Neolithic hoes, stone axe, household chisels, pits. Remains hidden in a cave suggest secrecy, illicit love, not told to anyone in the village but saved within pulsing vessels feeding the heart.”
Rip Currents captures the relentless, unforgiving rhythm of life. Mandel unleashes a work that subtly explodes with driving tempo. Nature revolts, bowing to an all encompassing, invisible force. We are at the mercy of this vortex. Past civilizations are buried. The once mighty gods are powerless.
“Rivers vanish, fish shrunk into fossils. Hikers trampled on sun-baked cracked late bottoms. Storms with names of friends rain biblical floods, streams of sewage rude on currents of mud.”
In a suspenseful, gripping end, we are left grappling with the $64,000 question:
Are these not “tantrums” long associated with Mother Nature?
In Aging’s Arithmetic, My Father at Ninety-two – Splitting the Days, Living in Time, and Of Clocks and Love, there is that ubiquitous theme: Time. Whether evident in the sinews of the human body or the tendrils of nature, it’s a phenomenon worthy of our attention, if only for greater understanding of life.
In Fortunes of Hunger, where “starvation [is] more immediate than sickness [and] hunger [is] the shaped of lives,” Mandel captures the existential crisis of millions today.
General Post Office, 1910, Brooklyn, NY, follows in like vein. ‘They made you a regular? You lucky Jew.’ She recalls the disturbing zeitgeist of that time.
With “72 hours a week, $800 a year,” she cements her commentary.
Time, Mandel defines, in The Waiting Room, as “a space you inhabit from birth, gravity-held, upright…” She pens, “You’ve been brought down a mysterious aisle blank in memory, cradled, and let go, arms flailing for balance, to undergo some sort of initiation , enrolled as human in transit…’
That we are mere actors on a stage called life is evident in And the Dodgers Played in Ebbes Field.
Mandel’s words resonate:
Kent State gun-down
Korea’s winter-numb fingers
Towering bonfires masks of white ash
Listen to the dead
Ardent on cell phones
Pitch forward in to setting sun,
Squint at the scoreboard
Names switched off
one by one.”
In its demystification of life, To Be the Daylight, takes a step beyond philosophical inquiry, making a definitive, lasting teleological statement in just about every offering.
Mandel’s work is one of pure activism, not in the political, confrontational sense. Rather, personal liberation is advanced through reason. Mandel invites critical analysis, ever nudging us to explore our intuitive potential.
With exemplary deliberation, knowledge and wisdom, only possible with years of experiential learning, Mandel delivers. And we surrender.
To be the Daylight by Charlotte Mandel
Publisher: Kelsay Books
Available at Amazon and www.kelsaybooks.com
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