Elemental, elegant, and passionate poems that claim as their symbol the Ishtar Gate: a threshold between the past and the future, the old world and the new.
we talk on the phone, a black wire is strung
us, heavy with ice, and somehow we know
must speak the condensed code of last words,
referring, out of love, or fear, to the end.
'm in my kitchen with the phone caught, like a violin,
chin and shoulder, but with my hands freed.
listen. I cut into the pliant flesh of oranges, bought
past week at a store you will likely never see.
fruit is identified, like a painting, with provenance,
are always in the middle of life, looking forwards and backwards; the only movement we can make to defy physics and history is the journey of the spirit. The Ishtar Gate, a ceremonial gate from the palace of Nebuchadnezzar at Babylon, reconstructed and housed in the Staatliche Museum, Berlin, is my personal symbol for the merging of ancient and modern culture, the old goddess-centred religions and the scholarly, rational West. So wrote Diana Brebner of the book she planned to write. Though cancer claimed her life before she could complete this project, she wrote some thirty poems towards it. Here is a poet in extreme control of her craft: the aesthetic refinement, the musicality of language, the spiritual vision, and the playfulness that drew readers to Brebner's previous award-winning books - "Radiant Life Forms," "The Golden Lotus," and "Flora & Fauna" - resonate with even greater force in her last poems. The elements - earth, air, water, and fire - are all here. And the voice is singular, full of elegance and abandon, an Old World respect for art and history and a New World desire for wilderness and adventure. From within the Ishtar Gate, we see a canoe on a northern lake, a scene from Vermeer, a line by Sylvia Plath, a Polaroid image of a heart, a jar of orange marmalade, a frozen Aphrodite in a field of snow. In this place of beauty and danger, the poems live. "The Ishtar Gate" testifies to Brebner's belief in "the indefatigable forces of poetry and imagination."