by Aimee Walker

Reimagining History

Three poets who do it well

What draws us to poetry? One answer may be poetry’s ability to help us make sense of the relationship between identity and history, a theme central to Today: 101 Ghazals (Sheep Meadow Press, $13.95) by Suzanne Gardinier. The ghazal is an Arabic poetic form on which Gardinier’s poems are loosely based, an unusual boundary-crossing choice for a Jewish poet. Gardinier uses the single poetic form to bring concepts together across geography, religion, and even gender, as in ghazal #29, where Jewish prayer (davening) and Muslim prayer (salat) are mingled together. Connections are reinforced by the repetition of images through the entire book, such as the “two women” who appear in many poems, including: in #5 “Two women Not meeting One holding a key,” in #6 “Helicopters and two women dancing,” and in #47 “In the dark Two women Part ash Part angel.” These women appear in different times and different worlds — in one case angels, in another ordinary women dancing. By placing this same image throughout, Gardinier creates her own history, with women at its center.

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