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This Morning the Mountain, Poems by Judy Rowe Michaels

Judy Rowe Michaels' sixth bout of cancer coincided with a deeper grief: her husband's sudden death, the end of a forty-four-year marriage. Yet the poems in This Morning the Mountain, in their various turnings, reveal unexpected moments of comfort, resilience, even laughter: the pet cat's growling capture of a broiled shrimp, "like the fierce hunter he was meant to be"; an arresting improvisation by a favorite jazz pianist; a prisoner's empathic insight about a poem-"I guess cancer could be a prison too." Ranging from villanelle to prose poem to irregular stanzas that surge, stumble, or sprawl across a page, these poems find the music to explore not only our natural fears of loneliness, insufficiency, heartbreak, and death but the celebration of love.

Sample Poems by Judy Rowe Michaels

"Through poems that are graceful, clear-eyed, and 'brave with love,' Judy Rowe Michaels' This Morning the Mountain spins a saga of survival and spirit in the face of loss. I love how deftly Michaels weaves poems about cancer recurrences(five, ovarian), a brother's suicide, and her husband's sudden death with lively takes on jazz, dance, poets, paintings, andcats. Alongside stunning heartbreak-'Three thousand discs stopped spinning when you died'-and then thedaily living without, comes a resistant voice, an assertion of self that responds to 'Rate the Pain on a Scale of. . .' with'Oh, please, the air's too thin' and, like Provincetown's cats, follows its own 'inner leash, some stretchy weave respondingto the moment.' These are poems of what Audre Lorde would call 'a vital necessity,' like the moon (in a gorgeous tribute to beloved California artist Chiura Obata) painted from behind the internment wires of a WWII camp, 'afloat on its own light, blessing the world.'"- Terry Bohnhorst Blackhawk, author of One Less River and Escape Artist

"Throughout this collection, Judy Rowe Michaels directly addresses the dead. In some poems, she speaks to a brother, another to her mother, and still others to various artists. But most often she speaks with her deceased husband. Sometimes she tells him of her own mortal fears due to recurring cancer; other times she voices the fierce loneliness of widowhood. In one such poem, 'Wait,' the poet tells him 'We have no language // but image now.' This helps us see how the book is actually a primer in language that is charged with enough feeling to reach across the mortal boundary. Ironically, with their sharply etched rhythms and rich, sensory imagery, these poems simultaneously reach across another great divide. They speak to us, the living, the readers who are re-minded they inevitably will have to walk a not dissimilar path."- Fred Marchant, author of Said Not Said

The splendid poems of This Morning the Mountain by Judy Rowe Michaels are proof that true wisdom may be worn lightly and without judgment, especially if delivered with clarity and buoyant curiosity about the world. Whether in health or sickness (the poet's long-term cancer), in mourning (the deaths of her brother and husband) or renewal, Michaels' poems turn negativity inside out. With music, cats, even a simple image of a Great Blue Heron that wards off hospital smells, these poems create a fresh, sophisticated, imaginative optimism.- Molly Peacock, author of The Analyst: Poems and A Friend Sails in on a Poem

"Michaels' poems in Reviewing the Skull ( 2010)are as brave as they are beautiful, poised so delicately, as they are, between the said and the unsaid."- Richard McCann, author of Mother of Sorrows