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Under the Spell of a Persian Nightingale, Poems by Diana Woodcock

 

Persian Nightingale

Persian nightingale winging over

the singing dunes—sands that hum

as shamal winds strum their grainy sides—

 

filling the desert with sad beauty.

Nothing’s new under the sun. Only love

and loss and the nightingale’s song

 

feeling real, everything else a mirage,

fleeting camouflage to mask the illusion.

No better solution for all our troubles—

 

the bulbul reflecting its Maker—

an instrument of peace sowing hope,

light, joy, even pardon. Who could be

 

such a fool as to cling to sadness

in the presence of the avian flautist?

Oh, to console with such flair, to give so

 

freely as if it were the most natural thing

in the world (it is!). To sway

on the extremity of a date palm frond,

 

to survey with equal tranquility both heart

of the desert and coastal bay. What powers

and magic lay in the folds of feathers of this

 

exquisite mystic with its singular mind and

celebration of yin and yang in its coloration—

its eyes fixed on infinite space,

 

ears attuned to underground streams and

water table rising. On limestone outcroppings

and sandstone jebels, they shine—angels

 

unawares—one chance today (yours and mine)

to be enchanted, to love with all our

breaking hearts the world.

( Poem from Under the Spell of a Persian Nightingale)

 

The desert narratives in Diana Woodcock’s collection become scenes of lush lyricism, color and life bursting from the arid landscapes.

“Diane Woodcock displays such keen sense of finding beauty and wonder in the most unexpected moments. These poems sing the difficult songs of finding a sense of home both in the Middle East and in the Everglades of Florida–mayhem laced with the marvelous balms of surprising metaphor when interrogating celebrations of life and death. The speaker promises, ‘You’ll feel a kinship with spiny-tailed lizard, desert lark, kopje and jebel. The smallest pebble will become kin.’ But most importantly, this book ultimately reminds us to pay close attention to our natural surroundings in order to uncover beautiful truths about the human condition.”—Aimee Nezhukumatathil, author of Lucky Fish, At the Drive-in Volcano, and Miracle Fruit

“Throughout the ages, poets and prophets have gone out into the desert for inspiration. In that vast quiet, far from the petty bickering of the tribe, they can hear their inner voice, the voice of God. Wherever they live, in Arctic waste or urban jungle, poets must have the courage to confront their own personal desert: the seeming emptiness within, the blank expanses of the page before them. They discover, time and time again, that this is only a seeming emptiness that the fountains of creation flow beneath its surface. In this book, the summation of a lifetime’s wandering in the dunes, Diana Woodcock digs deep beneath the sands, brings us back the ‘pure gift’ of the desert.”—Dan Veach, editor of Atlanta Review, author of Elephant Water

“Woodcock does what many dream: she unites travel and engagement, belonging and adventure, reality and mystery in one singular voice. Under the Spell of a Persian Nightingale asserts that we must be ‘shaken out of complacency’ and look beyond a narrow, easy definition of home. With her, we ‘Forget moon, sun, and stars’ to revel in the desert’s ‘Shamal-driven grains of sand’ and celebrate ‘two hundred / million years of turtle life,’ then spin, dreams of safety ‘kissed goodbye,’ to hear ‘voices from under / the hard-packed sand.’ Joining her urgency, we ‘Snap up each note and hold it / close as if it were the last.’ These are no mere travel poems; Woodcock lives long and deeply in the places she shows us, so the details come from large and complex knowing. Thus we may return having sunk deep into the ‘immeasurable, unpredictable beauty’ of new lands, deep into a new and lovely voice, ‘disturbed, awakened—hope renewed.’”—Nancy White, author of Sun, Moon, Salt

Diana Woodcock is the author of Swaying on the Elephant’s Shoulders, which won the 2010 Vernice Quebodeaux International Poetry Prize for Women (Little Red Tree Publishing, 2011). Her six chapbooks include Beggar in the Everglades, Desert Ecology: Lessons and Visions, Tamed by the Desert, In the Shade of the Sidra Tree, Mandala, and Travels of a Gwai Lo—the title poem of which was nominated for a Pushcart Prize by Toadlily Press. In 2013, she received a Presidential Research Quest Fund Award from Virginia Commonwealth University. In 2011, she received the Distinguished Achievements in Research Award from Virginia Commonwealth University in Qatar. Recipient of the 2007 Creekwalker Poetry Prize, she has had poems published in Best New Poets 2008, Nimrod, Crab Orchard Review, Portland Review, Southern Humanities Review, and other journals and anthologies. Since receiving an M.F.A. degree in Creative Writing in 2004, she has been teaching at Virginia Commonwealth University in Qatar. Previously, she spent nearly eight years working in Tibet, Macau, and on the Thai-Cambodian border. She is a PhD candidate (creative writing/poetry) at Lancaster University.

 

Ordering Information
ISBN 9781625491626, 150 pages, $22.00
Available from Amazon and other booksellers
More information: http://www.wordpoetrybooks.com/woodcock.html

 

 

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