Artful poetry is music, but it’s often hard to find thoughtful poetry that is melodic. “A Raga for George Harrison,” by Sharmagne Leland-St. John is a very special poetry collection with poems that read like songs. Some of the poems take us back in history celebrating famous people, poets and singers. Leland-St. John also shares her life’s events– its hardships, losses in love, and deaths of those close to her– that readers find relatable. This soulful and poignant book is a window into Leland-St. John’s life and experiences that have shaped her, in which we learn more about ourselves.
“Raga” is a reference to the melodies found in Indian music. Leland-St. John is a Native American author. Through “swaras,” the singer progresses up, then down the musical scale. Similarly, Leland-St. John’s poetry ascends and descends in tones.
Poems that readers will particularly remember and re-read are those written about George Harrison, Janis Joplin, Virginia Woolf, Allen Ginsberg, and Federico Garcia Lorca. She writes of those who’ve impacted her life, as tributes.
The poem “Lorca” is absolutely stunning, recounting the poet’s execution by Nationalists in the Spanish Civil War, amid the backdrop of the beauty and gentleness of nature:
by Sharmagne Leland-St. John
Across the ochre meadow
Unfamiliar terrain, quivered
In morning’s cool breeze.
The same gentle wind
Slightly ruffled his hair.
For a brief moment
Clouds obscured sun
Then the high-pitched
Click and clink
Of metal upon metal–
While butterflies danced
An erratic air ballet.
How would he have described
The staccato sound of a firing squad
As it shatters the golden dawn?
Or should one perhaps
To the sudden cessation of birdsong
Then the silken whisper of wings…
Against a blood drenched sky;
As seen through
The dead poet’s eye?
In the collection, Leland-St. John appears to write flowing poems effortlessly, and this spurs the reader to write poetry, too.
Her poems are rich in imagery and often rhyme.
From “Tiny Warrior,” about the death of her baby boy:
You never saw the spring my love
Or the red-tailed hawk circling high above
On feathered wings my love
You only knew the snow
You never saw the prairie grasses bend and blow
And undulate like the shimmering indigo sea
In “Wild Dark Love Song,” the poem begins:
A wild dark love song.
Borne deep within her gypsy soul.
He’s gone to live in jagged mountains,
Where salmon jump and sing,
The cloud lines
Beyond the silver moon.
In “An Unsung Song To Ron,” I liked this passage:
When you look in Monday’s mirror
Will you understand a woman’s fears
And when you see the rain next time
Will it remind you of my tears?
In the last poem, the last line of the collection, the poet speaks of “Tomorrow’s fragile dreams.” Yet the beauty in this book gives us the courage to move forward and appreciate our life’s experiences we learn from.
There is dignified expression and beauty throughout this fine collection. Don’t miss this highly-recommended book, elegantly produced by cyberwit.net.
A Raga for George Harrison, Copyright 2020
by Sharmagne Leland-St. John
94 pages ~ 54 poems
About Sharmagne Leland-St. John
Sharmagne Leland-St. John, 15-time Pushcart Prize nominee, is a Native American poet,
concert performer, lyricist, artist and filmmaker. She is the Editor-in-Chief of the
19-year-old literary and cultural arts journal Quill and Parchment.com.
The author spends time at home in the Hollywood Hills in California, her fly fishing
lodge on the Stillaguamish River in the Pacific Northwest, a casita/writer’s retreat
in Taos, N.M. and her villa in Tuscany. She is the founder of fogdog poetry in
Arlington, WA and tours the United States, Canada, and England as a performance poet.
She is widely anthologized, and her poetry and short stories appear in many
online literary journals. She has published four books of poetry: Unsung Songs (2003),
Silver Tears and Time (2005), Contingencies (2008), La Kalima (2010); and she co-
authored a book on film production design: Designing Movies: Portrait of a Holly
-wood Artist (Greenwood/Praeger 2006).
She is the editor of Cradle Songs: An Anthology of Poems on Motherhood, winner
of the 2013 International Book Award Honouring Excellence in Mainstream and Independent Publishing and one of four finalists for the NIEA (National Independent Excellence Award).