Reading Beth Marshall Jack’s lovely debut poetry collection, These Worlds Between Us, is like sitting down to a cup of tea with a wise and gentle friend. Her poems are intimate and lyrical, letting us into an interior landscape that mirrors our own fears, yearnings, joys, disappointments, and wonders.
Jack’s deep command of language and imagery allow us as readers to enter the poems easily and with confidence that what we encounter will enlighten and lift us to some greater understanding of a universal truth. In one of my favorite poems, “With a Click of My Heels,” Jack confronts loss and the helplessness one feels over the inability to make things different.
With a Click of My Heels
I hold your shoes and close my eyes,
the long pause of your absence
languished all afternoon.
Tissue paper stuffed in heels and purses
Your seven metal hangers looked empty and sinister.
Somehow I must find a way back
from this empty closet and rows of elegant shoes.
I must summon the child who remembered to be brave,
or that girl from Kansas,
who recognized clues, knew slippers were the answers
to everything, a sure guarantee that one could escape
a fire, a witch, poisoned flowers,
I stand alone, barefoot.
Jack’s imagistic language soars, sometimes eliciting an audible “oh!” as in these lines from “Compass”: “…every breath sags heavily, as I squeeze the sponge/tighter and tighter, as if stanzas were turned/inside out from me, how my body/half-turned, still expected him.” Or these lines from “Figurante”: “I am crumpled, worn out like an old ballet slipper/with ribbons bleached, once carnation pink/…Even the mirrors seem to leer/deliberate satyr teeth.
Many of her poems have mythic allusions, including the lovely “Circe,” which was awarded second prize in poetry from The Writer’s Journal.
Jack is an accomplished writer whose poetry has been honored many times over the years. This worthy collection reflects her careful attention to language, rhythm, imagery and story.