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Sharing the Same Sky
by Dorothy Randall Gray
24 poems/ 71 pages/ $15.00
Hummingbird Hill Press
to order: Amazon

Reviewed by: Ed Bennett

Not long ago, while reading a collection of essays by Christopher Hitchens, I stopped at
a statement by Saul Bellow.  If I may paraphrase the words, he said that if you are born
into a bad situation those very conditions compel you to look skyward and thus to hunger
for the universal.  Dorothy Randall Gray's book, Sharing the Same Sky, has poems set in
New York City as well as rural Georgia. Although a reader might expect these poems to be
provincial, they reach into you and, no matter what your background, and call out emotions
and memories of your own. One does not realize it at first because the amazingly clear use
of metaphor and  image are the first thing that sparks an  interest in these well crafted

Her first poem is entitled "Lower East Side Sonata'.  There is very little classicism in
this work. In fact, it is a love song for New York of a certain time and place.  Any poem
that references the  Fordham Baldies,  The Fugs and the Chambers Brothers resonates, at
least for me, in the New York City where I grew up.  This was my first taste of her univers-
ality. The poem ends with:

Too shy black girl finds her tongue
And Learns to dance
Becomes too fierce Black woman
   with a wickedness in her walk
Becomes too fierce Black woman writer
Living present tense paragraphs of passion
Weaving words and wisdoms
Salsa singing, poem flinging
Earth shaking, novel making
   no shit taking
Too fierce Black woman writer warrior
Lower East Side inside her soul
Que pasa
ne how ma
hava nagilah
shoo be doo wop wada

In these 16 lines she gives an idea of her own professional and spiritual development, the
polyglot culture of the  Lower East Side  and a coup de grace of a last line with the final
lyric to Sam and Dave's "What's Your Name'.

Music infuses several of the poems in this book. Not satisfied with simply having a fine
lyrical sense in her poems, she leads the orchestra as well. "PMS Blues" has the instruction
"To be read while listening to the blues and holding a hot water bottle on your belly at that
particular time of month'. Speaking as a male, the universality of this poem is, of course,
unique to females everywhere but when I read about the pain, the overindulgence and the
emotion ality, I know enough to step back and perhaps do the dishes while the lady listens
to her music.

Sharing the Same Sky is divided into five parts that provide a theme for the poems within them.
"Evocative Objects" turns away from the fun in the earlier poems; in it, simple objects evoke
emotions from the authors inner landscape. The objects (an apple, a letterpress, a twig) become
the totems of wisdom, joy and love though not in the Jungian sense of mere representation but as
unique and personal feelings that come from the soul, both the author's and the reader's.

There is a section of poems about her family. These are incredibly personal poems that talk of
lonliness and loss within her own family. Those of us who have lost parents know the emptiness
and the wish for more time with them. Ms. Gray reaches beyond herself and stretches her hand out
to all of us with the same loss. She shares with us, by her loving words that frame the feelings:

Mother's Day
Father's Day
Daggers with ribbons
Wounds that never heal
My parents always in the past tense.

Ms. Gray continues her walk down the darkened boulevards in "Other Avenues", She perceives the bleak
world of Hurricane Sandy, job loss and street crime with her eyes open. Looking around at the senseless-
ness of a culture that doesn't care for the marginalized she reminds one of Pogo's words: "We
have met the enemy and they are us".

The final section in the book is "Erotic Distractions". I was quite wary of this section before I read
it because this kind of poetry is usually pornographic or full of euphemisms. I was thrilled to find
out that it is neither. She extolls her breasts, grinding at dances on St. Nicholas Avenue and orgasms
in general. She goes from the introspective voice of the previously mentioned sections to a voice that
blends the verbal jazz of Langston Hughes with the creative nuance of ee cummings.

Sharing the Same Sky is an excellent book of poetry by a respected and celebrated poet. It is an echo of
Whitman's "barbaric yawp" delivered by a sophisticated poet who obviously has that New York City
"wickedness" in her step.

Perhaps, at some point, I will find the talent and intellect to write a review as perfect as Christopher
Hitchens. At that time I will return to this gem of a book so that I can write a review that will do it


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