A Moving Journey
Sometimes you get the feeling you know a person you’ve never actually met. It’s like that with Sarah Russell. We “met” online some years ago, swapping poems and comments on Goodreads, and now that I’ve had a chance to read her moving collection I lost summer somewhere, I almost feel she’s been writing not just her life but mine. And other women’s too.
Published by Kelsay Books, Russell’s collection takes the reader on a deeply moving journey through childhood, marriage, motherhood, and on. Her often brief poems show a deft touch: “Our fights were a barrage of arrows / going to the softest places, / as if everything depended / on the outcome,” she says in “Early Marriage.” Just four short lines, but a volume of meaning.
Equally striking is her three-stanza “Choice,” which begins with the poet holding her daughter’s hand during what could only have been an abortion and ends, “ ‘The baby would be in college now,’ / she said to me the other day. / ‘I know,’ I said.”
A retired professor and editor, Russell has had a second life as an accomplished doll maker. In creating her dolls, she draws on her studies of myth and legend, imbuing her small sculptures (it seems almost a slight to call them merely “dolls”) with the same spirit and empathy she brings to her poetry.
Reflective, elegiac, powerful – the poems tell hard truths about hard topics like miscarriage, cancer, abortion, and divorce, and give gentle reminders of the soothing power of nature, the comfort of love. And the inevitable advance of age:
The novel in my head
has only time to be
a poem without last lines
to tell the reader
if she learned to love
the baby, if what the gypsy
said came true, if the letter
was from him.
So ends her poem “In my 70s.” And if the gypsy told Russell she would be a gifted poet, it did indeed come true.