42 Poems in Rhyme & Meter
by Mary Keelan Meisel
60 pages at 21.95 US, 26.95 CAN
307 Birchwood Court
6311 Gilbert Rd.
Richmond, BC, V7C3V7
Review by Laurel Johnson
I admire MULTICULTURAL BOOKS, editor Joe Ruggier, and
sponsor Michael Burch for their vision and philosophy. Not many small presses
would reprise the work of a lesser-known poet who died in 1965. I understand
that every small business must keep a chary eye on the bottom line, but
sometimes a labor of love is in order to promote excellence. This publisher
produces quality work, and Meisel's work is excellent.
Born in 1889, Mary Keelan Meisel was physically disabled and struggled to recover from a mental breakdown through many of her adult
years. Despite those afflictions, there is a joyful, quietly powerful music in
her words. Yes, she contemplates death but is never morose. Consider, for
example, the last two lines of "I Would Go Out:"
I must have space when Death's swift shadow
so that my wings may spread for my last
Her pain and failing strength surely must have been a
burden, but she buffers such trials with small modicums of near joy, as in this
excerpt from "To a Seagull:"
You make me wistful gazing at your flight –
strong white wings swimming lazily in space,
when I am bound to earth and weary quite
of repetitious days in this dull place.
She creates words artfully out of emotion, in simple
ways that often lift the spirit and allow the reader's imagination to soar along
with hers. Four lines from "I Have Loved Little" have lingered in my mind from
I have loved little who would now love well;
but can one take a heart and make it over?
I have run lightly through the asphodel,
and danced among the bluebells and the clover.
Her work is extraordinary when she writes of imagined
people, places, and events. "Veronica" is an amazing praise psalm; "The Heart
of McMurragh" a glorious, bittersweet Gaelic love song; and "Paddy Finucane" a
triumphant ode to Celtic warriors. I would do them an injustice to quote small
excerpts. These are poems equal to the classic poets we all know and admire.
Meisel's heart knew "Sorrow's gentle, melancholy touch"
but she also celebrated "the sweet carillons of light laughter." Editor Ruggier
believes Meisel's poems to be one of the chief glories of North American
Literature. After reading her work, I must agree.
Reviewed by Laurel Johnson for Midwest Book Review
Johnson@diodecom.net — October 29, 2005