Sarah Klassen is
a Canadian poet
with Mennonite roots
Sarah is 88 years old.
Recently Sarah has published her second poetry collection, The Tree of Life, a gem of a book, glowing with color like sunlight filtered through stained glass.
Sarah Klassen has lived long enough to glean wisdom from literature of all sorts, has enjoyed life as an educator and lover of nature, its beauties now observed from her 4th floor balcony apartment in Winnepeg, Manitoba.
I was introduced to Klassen’s book of poems Tree of Life because a friend recommended it. Then I was drawn in to her topics and themes, deep and wide-ranging, quoting from English literature, from Rumi, Confucius and extensively from the Holy Bible.
In the preface to her latest poetry collection Tree of Life, Sarah Klassen quotes Goethe: “My worthy friend, gray are all theories/ And green alone Life’s golden tree.” Perusing the pages, I note it helps immensely to have biblical knowledge when exploring Sarah’s verse as she quotes from Proverbs, Paul’s epistles, and the book of Revelation. In seven units, the reader is treated to Klassen’s thematic versatility: love of travel, exploring dreams, women in the Bible like Jephthah’s daughter, Esther, and Mary Magdalene.
Lover of metaphor, I enjoyed Klassen’s playing with words: The eagle rises on currents and “soars like an organ chord,” antsy children regarding the “car as a cage.” And, “Every morning the sun rises,/ a fire hot as the eye of God.” Her poetry sings lyrically especially when she writes of nature. “a crow couple clamped to a willow branch. Four jet eyes nail the goslings, a succulent quartet.” And deer who “come softly to the garden bringing nothing but their hunger and their grace,” noting that she too contends with deer who sneakily steal blossoms from her garden, just as they do the begonias on my own patio. One of her poems “Click” muses on the owl she has posted to Facebook. Possibly my favorite animal poem is “Elephant,” in which she ruminates about her experience after a hot-air balloon ride: “A table set for all of us in the presence of elephants . . . The huge balloon lets out its last big breath./ The low blue hills have melted into the distance.”
A poem titled “Blue,” acknowledges a seat at the table left, perhaps, by one’s own absence: “There is no name for the subtle shade/ that, without warning, has taken your place at the table.” In a reference to an Asian assistant at a nail salon, colour again expresses emotion: “She scrubs with vigour, kneads and slaps my legs; and offers me a multitude of colours:/ burnt orange of sunset . . . coral like her lips, pink like the palm of her hand,/ black like her hair. I want her to name the precise shade/ for happiness. I want her to tell me/she has found it in this country.”
I ate heartily from the Tree of Life and felt nourished. As another reviewer observes, “You are sure to find poems on its pages that will inspire you to look at the natural world with new eyes, help you see old stories from new points of view and poems that will make you think about your own personal experiences in new ways.”
I hope to have Sarah’s outlook when I’m 88. As she expresses in New Music, “You had resigned yourself/to bearing up beneath that same old same old to the end./But then—this instrument! These skilled hands playing it/ with love. Your heart breaks open/You believe.” Simply beautiful!
This collection of poems definitely merits my rating of five stars.
* * *
On each side of the river is the tree of life, which produces twelve crops of fruit, bearing its fruit each month. The tree’s leaves are for the healing of the nations. Revelation 22:2
Tip: Books make good Holiday Gifts 🙂
Are you familiar with Sarah Klassen?
Other favorite poets?
Do you yourself enjoy writing poetry: haiku, limericks, other forms?
Good morning, Marian. Thanks for the introduction.
Yes, I’ve been known to write a bit of poetry. 😏
You write poetry EVERY SINGLE DAY. I enjoy yours and hers, both metaphorical and sensory infused. I’m pretty sure you’d like Sarah’s style with so many literary allusions. Soon, I’ll check to see what you have on offer today! 🙂
I don’t post a poem every day, but thank you, Marian! 😀 I will have to check out her work when I get a chance.
I would love to check out your poetry! Where can I find it?
I hope you can find it here: https://www.amazon.com/Tree-Life-Sarah-Klassen/dp/0888017170/ref=sr_1_5?dchild=1&keywords=Tree+of+life+Sarah+Klassen&qid=1604239667&s=books&sr=1-5
Also, the link at the end of the post above should lead to purchase of Sarah’s collection of poems. Happy reading!
Thank you! I’ve published some, but mainly on my blog https://merrildsmith.wordpress.com/
Great review, Marian. Thank you for introducing us to Sarah. An inspiration, indeed. I don’t write poetry though I love reading it. You certainly have shown The Tree of Life to be an enticing read!
Kathy, I think you and I have the same mindset. We feel “called” to write from memory rather than imagination and prefer prose to poetry. Thanks for appearing in this column, Kathy!
You’re my favorite, Merril!
Awwwww! You are the sweetest, Jill! ❤️
You must have found lines and poems that I skimmed over in my fairly quick reading–I love the ones you’ve shared and the perspectives you add. To answer your query, I would say that I had an EMU professor who introduced me to T.S. Eliot and I think that’s my favorite poet, but I enjoy many others. I’m excited for Kate Baer, somewhat known as the Instagram poet, and I’ll share a backstory secret here–we tried at Herald Press to publish her but she held off, and eventually landed up where she is. Her first book of poetry has just been published by Harper Collins (wow) and the book is called What Kind of Woman. https://www.vogue.com/article/kate-baer-poet?fbclid=IwAR0E3hxaat1zEouZ-kT9_YJKkjXZHpzvtC-95lhwbXMZq-0YIyiInogTVGM
Melodie, what a back story. Yes, I had a peek at Kate’s piece in Vogue. If Herald Press tried to publish her, I’m guessing she has Mennonite origins too. And I notice from her bio she is from Hershey, PA, just about 10 miles from my hometown. Thanks for sharing the link and for adding a comment about a special EMU professor who introduced you to T. S. Eliot, one of my favorites too.
Now I wonder if your EMU professor was one I would recognize. Hmmmm. . .
Thanks for introducing us to her book. I will have a look. I have written poetry, but I don’t consider myself to be a born poet. Some people have the gift of looking at the world in such a way that the translation of it falls from their lips in effortless poetic phrases. I’m not one of those. I appreciate the gift in others, though.
Arlene, many writers would echo your feeling inept at poetry. And that’s okay. I’m among them, though I like haiku and even wrote a limerick last week on my writers’ group. Thanks, Canadian friend! 🙂
Marian, what a great introduction to Sarah’s work. Love the cover and the quotes you included. What a gift Sarah has. And how exciting that she’s published this book!
My mom is in her 80s. She keeps saying she’s too old to do things. But looking at Sarah’s book, I’m encouraged. Mom needs to read this book!
L. Marie, maybe your mom would appreciate Sarah’s poetry collection as a Christmas present. Ms. Klassen writes quite a lot about her children and grandchildren. Besides, she’s in your mother’s decade – ha!
Thank you Marian for introduction to Sara’s poetry.
Another Canadian poet I like is David Waltner-Toews who is one of three poets featured in a book entitled THREE MENNONITE POETS. The other 2 authors are Jean Janzen & Yorifumi Yaguchi.
Good morning, Jean. I have not heard of these Canadian poets. If you like their work, I’d probably enjoy them too.
Readers: Here is the link, if you’re curious too: https://www.amazon.com/Three-Mennonite-Poets-Jean-Janzen-ebook/dp/B01LK7GGH2/ref=sr_1_1?dchild=1&keywords=Three+Mennonite+poets&qid=1605102168&s=books&sr=1-1
Thanks for this, dear sister!
Thank you, Marian, for sharing a portrait of inspiration and a writer who shows us you’re never too old to keep writing and publishing.
Yes, indeed. Many in my tribe of writers are younger than I am. So it was heartening to find an author who proves that one can be vital, inspirational, and productive even in the elder years. Thanks for this, Susan! 🙂
Marian — Thank you for the introduction to Sarah Klassen and her book of poems, The Tree of Life. It sounds like it would be ideal for holiday gift giving.
And while I don’t write poetry, I do enjoy reading it. One of my favorite poets is Mary Oliver. I had the joy of listening to her read some of her work at an event several years ago in Chicago.
Oh, Laurie, I like Mary Oliver’s work too. One poem that stands out is “My work is loving the world,” with a message that couldn’t be more timely. Thanks for reading and extending the conversation here! 🙂
I’m looking forward to reading her poetry. Thanks so much for introducing her. I love poetry both writing it and reading it!
I know you are multi-talented, so whatever suits your fancy, you can paint, or pick up your pen to write poetry or prose. Don’t be embarrassed, Joan. It’s the truth – ha! 🙂
I write often. Sometimes prose, sometimes poetry, sometimes haiku, and have done so since my early years. While his works come out as prose, his turn of the word is lyrical, drawing pictures with letters. Ivan Doig.
Ginger, it’s good to see you here today! Your comment about Ivan Doig led me to a Wikipedia article: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ivan_Doig
Though Doig died quite a while ago, he comments about his knowledge of the Far West which experiences raging fires, droughts, and other turbulent weather.
I’m glad you have various outlets for your creativity. In these challenging times, I hope you find comfort in this. Thanks for adding to the conversation and to my knowledge of Montana-born writer. 🙂
Thank you for the introduction to Sarah’s work, Marian. She is an inspiration. I don’t read a lot of poetry, but I admire those who create it. Our friend Merril is my favorite!
We share that admiration for Merril, Jill. And we both know she also edits encyclopedias and other prose works – all pretty amazing.
Best wishes as you labor on with your 5th (?) book during NaNoWriMo this month. You have my admiration too! 🙂
Yes, Merril is amazing. Thanks for the wishes. NaNo is book 6, number 5 is finished.
Thanks for refreshing my faulty memory on book numbers. There is NO way to keep up with your prodigious output – simply amazing, Jill!
It sounds like an uplifting and inspiring collection of poems. I’ll look out for them. Thank you for sharing this with us.
You are very welcome, Fatima. I also appreciate you for sharing this post in a sweet Tweet! 🙂
Thank you, Marian, for an excellent review. I used three of Sarah’s poetry books in my PhD dissertation and also interviewed her for one of my academic papers. She has published five books of poetry, a novel, and two collections of short stories. Your quote from Revelation 22:2 struck a chord with me. “The tree’s leaves are for the healing of the nations.” I think especially of your country and where you find yourself at this time.
You have an intimate knowledge of Sarah Klassen’s work from your academic studies and details of her personal life as well. Thank you for adding all that!
Thank you too for iterating the scripture from Revelation. I also find hope for the future in this one:
“And he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water that bringeth forth his fruit in his season; his leaf also shall not wither, and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper.” ~ Psalm 1:3
Yes, we too are looking forward to healing and restoration.
I absolutely love poetry and to see someone writing a book of poetry at 88 is so encouraging! I truly believe the poem regarding the tree of life is needed at this time as our country is hurting and desperately needs healing. I feel like the poems in this book are timely. Thank you for highlighting this author! She’s special!
Nice to see you here, Katherine. Yes, Sarah has the wisdom of someone who has the knowledge and wisdom of a long life to draw upon. And I do agree, she is special as poet, novelist, and storyteller. Thank you! 🙂
Wonderful review, Marian. Great to meet Sarah and discover her books. <3 Sharing…
Thank you for sharing as friend and also a member of the RRBC tweet team, so sweet, Bette! 🙂
From the almost opening lines ‘… Goethe: “My worthy friend, gray are all theories/ And green alone Life’s golden tree.” I was hooked and stand in awe and admiration of Sarah Klassen. Thank you Marian, what a lovely review of this wonderful woman and her poetry. The cover is wonderful as is its inner contents, as well as her photograph. She’s a great role model for us all …
In my experience poetry and/or poetic pose reaches into my depths in a way that little else does. Yes, good writing reaches into my depths, but poetry is in a class of its own. I glow green when I read such and am not only envious of such skill, but in admiration of one who evokes so much in images, thoughts and feelings. Merril Smith is one of them, and quite a few others … Thank you for this lovely post Marian.
‘On each side of the river is the tree of life, which produces twelve crops of fruit, bearing its fruit each month. The tree’s leaves are for the healing of the nations. Revelation 22:2’ I can’t end my comment without re-noting how you ended your post ..
Susan, I feel your joy – and also a bit of angst in your phrase ” I glow green.” Yes, green is the color of envy but this hue also evokes growth and vibrancy, which I detect often in your open-hearted posts. I’m so happy this poet resonated with you. Like you, I admire those who can compress thought into such imaginative verse. I guess you and I will stick to prose – ha! 🙂
Thank you, my friend!
I will definately add this to my Christmas list! 🙂 I’ve written some poetry and songs, but haven’t shared much. 😉
Hey, Jenn! I love the way you express yourself creatively in so many ways. Sarah will be happy you have purchased her book, and so will the person who receives this gift. Thanks! 🙂
I’ve ordered it for my Mom. She loved your book too and has given copies as gifts to others. 😉
I’m delighted to meet Sarah and learn about her poetry, Marian. A lovely review.
Isn’t is great that poets come in all ages and from so many geographical locations. Thanks for checking in today, Robbie! 🙂
Well, this book of poems seems simply beautiful. I’ve always enjoyed poetry that is accessible (not the kind that is so full of symbols and metaphors that most readers can’t understand it). Mary Oliver is my style of poet, but then so also is Walt Whitman. Thanks for letting us know about Sarah’s Tree of Life. An inspiration!
Sarah’s English teacher mind and mine connected easily. You are a literary buff too, and I think you would enjoy her collection. Like Whitman, Ms. Klassen slips in the common thought when you least expect it.
I always enjoy your slant on things. Thanks for stopping by, Pam! 🙂
Thanks for the introduction to fellow Canadian author Sarah and her lovely poetry. The cover is gorgeous and wonderful review. 🙂
I love my Canadian writers from British Columbia to Ontario. Some of my very best reviews have come from Canadian authors, who have become my friends, including you, Debby! Thanks for your nod here once again. 🙂
Always a pleasure Marian 🙂
What a wonderful review, Marian! Sarah’s writing is deep and lovely and I just adore the cover of her book. I have an author friend who lives in Winnipeg as well. Verrrrrry cold winters! Have a lovely weekend!
I have a feeling you’ll be getting some pretty good reviews very soon, Liesbet. I’m glad you enjoyed this one from a seasoned writer, who is actually older than I am. About the Canadian winters: I’ll stick to Florida – ha!
I adore poetry , it’s a way of speaking through the heart . I have never heard of Sarah but I ‘m sure her work is a joy .
I first became interested in poetry when a friend at school showed me her Father’s beautiful poetry.I was astonished and I have wrote poetry for myself ever since ( actually I have wrote ever since ) .
I love Sylvia Plath , her poetry is amazing , it makes you stop and think .
Cherry, I’m not at all surprised that you like poetry. Your prose style in comments here is always very lyrical. Thank you for adding to the conversation today! oxo
Yes, simply beautiful. Every beautiful quote and the way you’ve woven them. I’m feeling like it may be time for me to stop writing for a while and focus only on reading since the reading list gets longer and time gets shorter in terms of a life. Thank you, Marian, for introducing me to Sarah Klassen and giving more food for thought as I feel the necessity of transformation–not only for my country, but four myself. Sarah Klassen is an inspiration–and so are you. I’m grateful for the goodness you share.
Elaine, you remind me of the need to pause, as poets do, to crystallize thinking into small bits. We as a nation, and individually have been through a traumatic year. Like you, I have been thinking about taking a break, perhaps in December.
A few days ago, something went wrong on my Kindle where I have a bunch of books to read, but I’m also reading Michelle Obama’s bio Becoming, the hard cover version. Nothing calms monkey mind like reading a good book.
I’m glad you found Sarah Klassen refreshing – and, yes, I like to share the good. Take care, dear friend. ((( )))
Poetry is something I have never really read…now and again over the years and I don’t write poetry myself however since I have been blogging I have enjoyed many a poem. The cover of that book is lovely as is your review of Sarah’s poems…Happy Sunday, Marian 🙂 xx
Carol, I’m so glad you enjoyed Sarah Klassen’s poetry. I’m reading your comment on Saturday evening while you wish me a Happy Sunday. What a wonderful reminder that we are experiencing the cycles of day and night, light and dark in different ways on the same planet.
Thank you! 🙂
It is indeed, Marian..the marvels of the internet… it is a lovely sunny Sunday morning here.. 🌞
Hours later, I can say that about the States too! 😀
Marian, thanks for introducing me to Sarah Klassen and her poetry. Your review leads me to believe this latest collection would be good nourishment for the soul during the times we’re living through. I especially enjoy Mary Oliver’s poetry, and I must woefully admit to never trying my hand at writing any. Who knows maybe my 80s will be poetry writing decade!
I’m with you on Mary Oliver, a woman for all seasons of a woman’s life. Sarah has keen insight into moods and emotion. She is also so observant as a nature lover, probably the thing I like most about her poetry.
Thanks for reading and commenting in this corner, dear Sherrey!
Well done, Sarah! A great review, Marian. I am always in awe of those who can compose poetry. It is a level of creativity I can only dream of.
Me too, Darlene! I flirt with haiku and laze with limerick on occasion, but like you I won’t be producing a poetry collection although I admire those who do.
Remember this, Darlene, few authors have a flair for children’s and YA literature, where you excel. To each his own, I guess. 🙂
Thank you for this compelling review Marian. As a lover of poetry, I am drawn toward Sarah’s book. Looking forward to reading it. 🙂
Sarah will be pleased to hear this, and you will definitely be rewarded. Thank you! 🙂