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.
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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?