In in search of “Green Dolphin Street,” Robert Schuler’s eleventh book of poetry, we find a seasoned artist painting with an effortless hand. His images are numinous and moving as in “A Take of Miles Davis’ Flamenco Sketches”: “what are we doing down here / whirling under the moon / spinning round the afterglow / of the sun / lost in space / how fragile we are / how long we can sing,” or in “There is This Language Music”: “flame-red and wine-scarlet maples / rose / a woman’s body her breasts her nest / in the ultimate / truth / the reason / you are here / become / closer to the music / the world / the art / storms gone / the cool air swirling / round your reddened skin / I caress the being / I hold in my hands.” His poems are meditations of the moment. They reflect the sights, smells and sounds that surround him. They are all influenced by a musician Schuler reverences, the late great jazz musician Bill Evans.
Schuler, who teaches film, American Literature, and writing at the University of Wisconsin-Stout, describes his book of poetry as “a suite of poems in praise of Bill Evans.” His homage to Evans is felt in almost every poem, including this one in which the opening line is also the title, “all poems are love poems / written to the things that will never happen again / never dance in the wind again / like Bill Evans playing “Green Dolphin Street” / rain playing against our windows / our bodies lost in love / a thousand times.” Indeed, Schuler is a love poet. And again in “What is Art?”: “rain taps and hisses all evening / across the leaves / after midnight bone-white rain drones / hard against the windows and walls / while I listen again and again / to Bill Evans playing / ‘Gloria’s Step’ / a slow pure dance of grace.”
As I drifted into Schuler’s poetry I sometimes felt I was getting only half his message, half his meanings, because I was not listening to Bill Evans. I only know that Evans is a great jazz artist in a class with Stan Getz, Miles Davis and Cannonball Adderly. But I have not listened to Evans’ music. (Now, I want to.) Schuler mentions Evans’ name in either titles or narratives no less than ten times over the course of his 35-page homage to his beloved jazz artist. I began to feel that without having listened to Evans I was experiencing a metaphor I’d never met.
I particularly liked Schuler’s short poems. Here are two whose titles are also their opening lines: “light falling on the ferns / the Canada thistles springing / fuchsia from the shadows” and “fog silking / through the black / arabesques of oaks.”
Schuler dedicates this book to his wife, Carol, and writes “Love Poem” in her honor: “damn I’m always riding out / round the room / out the windows / into the cold Wisconsin air / witched with owls / nobody knows the blues / the just / right / notes / I want to play / a few for you.” Indeed, above all, I feel Robert Schuler is a love poet. A lover of music, a lover of the silences found in the north woods and, of course, a lover of the music of Bill Evans.
Schuler is the fifth poet to publish his work under the careful hand of Linda Aschbrenner and her growing Marsh River Editions. One can see in each of her publications an editor and publisher who loves poetry and takes great care in how it is presented. When not publishing books of poetry, Linda is the editor of the monthly poetry magazine titled Free Verse. Writers and readers can find her at geocities.com/wordzoo.
About the author:
Charles P. Ries lives and writes in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. He has completed a novel based on memory titled, THE FATHERS WE FIND: The Making of a Humble, Pleasant Boy, from which When Memories Begin is taken. His second book of poetry titled Monje Malo Speaks English was published in January 2003 by Foursep Publications. He is on the board of the Woodland Pattern Book Center in Milwaukee. His work was nominated for a 2003 Pushcart Prize by Anthology. His poems, poetry reviews and short stories have appeared in over sixty print and electronic publications, some of these being: FREE VERSE, ICONOCLAST, STAPLEGUN PRESS, POESY, CIRCLE MAGAZINE, PEARL, PIDJIN, THUNDER SANDWICH, WISCONSIN REVIEW and HALFDRUNK MUSE.