Review by: Karen Schwartz
Sharmagne Leland-St. John’s natural ability for self-revelation is reflected generously throughout her collected works of poetry. Like her first two collections, her newest book, Contingencies, invites the reader to travel alongside her
“…time slowed/ and asked me to remember/ my sister's blue-black braids/ coiling asp-like/ upon the white/ embroidered/ pillow slips…”
amid foreign adventures, highlighted in Contingencies, where the poet takes notice of underprivileged children throughout the world
“…their dark eyes,/ their round, brown faces,/ Mexican bowl haircuts,/ and then,/ the outstretched, dirty palms,/ on the end of spindly arms/ tiny hands,/ with ragged fingernails…”
Navigating her audience along on her travels through the cities of Mexico, Sri Lanka, Egypt and Peru, Sharmagne’s raw emotion at the plight of the needy captivates us as we bear witness to her deep desires to bring fulfillment to the penniless, while simultaneously aching to fill the void of her own personal loneliness.
Past memories and heartfelt relationships, as seen in Villanelle,
“As she lay there sleeping, dreaming by your side/Intrinsically you knew, she had forever on her mind/She gave her soul to one man, but he went away and died”
revealing one remarkable woman who isn’t afraid to feel deeply and doesn’t run from life lived. Sharmagne faces her past with fondness and embraces her cobbled life of generous loving, passionate bonding and honest, unsettled goodbyes inviting her readers to re-examine their own capacity for loving.
The book’s dedication,
“For my husband Richard Sylbert who taught me to love without fear but not how to live without love”
sets the tone for this compilation of deep hearted emotional poetry, bringing the reader along an experiential journey of isolated sights, authentic smells and distinctive sounds through skilled guided imagery leaving the reader deeply touched to the core. It is among these universal human tendencies and familiar truisms that Sharmagne’s sincere poetic voice shines through, mirroring the readers’ revealed self within the pages of her words.
Chance happenings shape our hearts and embrace our souls in deeply personal ways. Ms. Leland-St. John opens our eyes to the contingencies surrounding us through her poetic voice that is both powerful and melodic. In this latest work, I am reminded that life is an adventure waiting to be embraced. For this reason, I highly recommend Contingencies as a wonderful addition for all personal and professional libraries.Editor's note:
The book cover of Contingencies is a reprint of a charming watercolour made as a Christmas gift for the
poet's husband Richard. Not only did she paint the still life, she also built the fly rod shown in the painting,
tied the flies, and caught the ranbow trout. She also cleaned the fish and cooked it in the fireplace on a Tuscan
grill! No doubt she had also chopped the wood for the fire!