From the Introduction: "Roche follows the orders of the poem rather than making the poem bend to her will. When one realizes how profoundly 'Myrrh' comes from the practice on all levels, how successfully she pulls off one of the riskiest of endeavors . . . one begins to grasp . . . a highly original, courageous, mature, beautiful singularity of Voice, Theme, Sound, Image, etc., making up a brilliant whole."
What the Critics are Saying
"In Judith Roches powerful evocations of her griefs and amazements the sacred substance of myrrh serves as central symbol for the healing of her perplexities. For myrrh that 'is measured in tears' can transform embittered sorrow into a sweetness of joy for a poet who feels an 'angel beating heavy wings at all my openings.' Nowhere is this more vivid than in a long poem, 'My Life as a Screamer,' where shrieks of fear and defiance gradually shift into cries of exuberance. Through realms of pattern and scatter, dream and rebellion, this fervent book travels on supple lines and disciplined focus. The Helen sequence alone achieves memorable beauty when the poet finds splendor in her own myth: 'My blood crystallizes into stone. I am form for flames.'"
"Judith Roche remembers, as few poets today do, poetry's ancestral roots in myth, magic, and melos. Like myrrh, these poems are bitter, erotic, a potent female gift. Recalling the 'silence between the notes' that could signify either rapture or the silencing of the witch, who is every woman, the poems rise at the book's close to the long, long-repressed scream that can finally crest 'in pure exuberance.'"
Table of Contents
"Myrrh: Murmur of Life," By Sharon Doubiago
Trying the Ways We Know
Why She Went to the Woods
We Balance Each Other's Night and Daylight Needs
They Think About Escape
Anatomy and Destiny
Letter Home When Home Has Shifted on Her Haunches
The Sound I Learned from My Mother's Song
Alternate Insomnia at the Lake in Winter
Desire in Laughing Seascape
Helen: When They Called Her Witch
Love in a Lifeboat
Helen: The Questions
But It Takes Till Then
Dancing Dreams My Mother Had, I in Utero
After the Revolution
The Open Book Comes Off the Page
Thunder After Thunder, Returning Like Rhyme
Trying the Ways We Know, Part II
The Night We Hollered Down the Tunnel in the Dell
The Forest at Night and on Into
The Bones of the Priestess Loom Large on the Beach
The White Horse Girl and the Blue Wind Boy
Changing on the Road
Letter to Li T'ai-Po
My Life in Letters
We Take a Night Boat Ride Together
My Life as a Screamer
They are only boys, though murderers and rapists.
Bad skin is an issue. Candy bars a treat.
Some are fathers. Some have fathers.
Ink pens are contraband
though new tattoos bloom daily on arms
enflamed by needles and pain.
Hate: Love Live: Die
Beast and throw-away child,
No one knows where they get the needles.
They remember beatings and fishing trips,
will hurt themselves if no one will do it for them.
Or one another. Innocence assumes forgiveness.
They are both the beast who lives
at the heart of the Labyrinth
and feeds upon the flesh of others
and the children thrown to the beast
to twist and turn in serpentine path
until they meet the hunger that will tear them apart.
One boy stares silent with wounded eyes, tied tongue,
and writes a poem of ten women whose red dresses spread
about their twenty severed hands in pooled blood.
Even the other boys say he is sick. They haven't read
Lorca who writes sliced-off breasts,
the stain of three hundred crushed crimson roses.
Neither has this boy, whose tongue is thick and slow
with heavy medication but whose imagination flies,
an unencumbered bird, beyond betrayal and forgiveness.
He's found a vein, an underground river
he can ride to the lyrical heart of his own brutal poem.
The difference is his violence does not stay on the page.
are not like the Saints.
They do not discriminate
but come to everyone.
Their eyes burn green fire
but their kisses are icy.
They can play rough when we get caught
in the heavy crosswinds that swirl about their wings.
They are not above artifice
and sometimes appear in disguise:
a mask of smeared lipstick, gypsy
bangles, or an old man's coat.
Sometimes they carelessly give us gifts:
an unexpected hobbyhorse, a day's free baby-sitting,
a poke in the eye with a stick,
or sudden slant of light on water.
And we are grateful, once we figure out how
to move within their state of complex blessings.
They work within great wheels and circles,
turning light into dark and back again,
though they do not obey the laws of gravity
but laugh a lot and arise at will
to hover like vast hummingbirds
when we require attention.
What they want of us is the mysterious secret
we unravel and reweave
down to dark and back again.
Judith Roche Awarded Golden Umbrella
On September 2, 2007, One Reel, the producers of Bumbershoot, Seattle’s annual arts festival, awarded Judith Roche its Golden Umbrella Award for lifetime achievement. (“Bumbershoot” is an archaic word, meaning umbrella.) One Reel’s announcement reads:
“It is One Reel’s great honor to bestow our prestigious Golden Umbrella Award for Lifetime Achievement in the Arts on Bumbershoot’s Literary Arts Director Emeritus, Judith Roche.
“Judith served One Reel for 20 years as Director of the Literary Arts Program (from 1986-2005), where just a few highlights of her tenure were co-editing First Fish, First People (winner of the American Book Award in 1998), editing Bumbershoot’s annual literary magazine Ergo! from 1985-1994 and coordinating the publication of Edgewalking on the Western Rim (1994). Judith’s support of local writers and artists is unparalleled, and her good spirit not only was an integral part of the One Reel community, but of the arts community city- and nation-wide.
“Apart from One Reel, Judith has maintained a rigorous career as a public artist, teacher, and mentor. She also has published three collections of her own poetry, the most recent being Wisdom of the Body, released this year [by] Seattle’s Black Heron Press.“Past recipients of the award are Ernestine Anderson, Paul Dorpat, Pat Graney, Jacob Lawrence and Gwendolyn Knight, Ursula K. LeGuin, Tom Robbins, Julie Speidel, Dan Sullivan and George Tsutakawa.