What a lovely ruthless and tender book this is! In the subtly-titled Where Do the Memories Go? Lauri Robertson tracks the path of her inner life as it meets the realities of the outer world, unflinching under the impacts of loss, grief, pain, death and the fear of death where she finds, or does not find, the needed words. A powerful centerpiece to the book, “The Grievous Body,” articulates the scenes of an unspoken farewell to her dying mother-in-law and meditates on them. The elegy “For Dori,” honoring a beloved friend, raises challenging questions for the poet herself: “in my heart, my aging heart, how inaccessible the story of being or not.” Yet poetry enables these stories to end both ways: “I love … every blistered apocryphal moment, /as tho’ to breathe were life” and “Just say/ she died.” To read this book is to join in understanding these ancient and sustaining truths.
Lauri Robertson’s poems are morsels to savor. She shares Proustian madeleines—hers, in a small crystal wine glass, just big enough for “a splash”, that takes her back to her father. You walk with her through her garden of fleurs sauvages, run your fingers over the stone crevices of the French medieval village walls, eavesdrop on her conversations, with her mother, maybe with you, with all of us, lucky enough to listen. These poems, and especially those on memory, are nothing short of the most profound philosophical meditations on living, loving, losing, and growing old.
Listen. Put your ear to the door and you will overhear whispers, laughter, prayers and protests, wry observations and revelations from a mind trained to listen and follow the twisting paths of words. Lauri Robertson’s poems in these companion volumes—In Concert and Where Do the Memories Go?—inscribe worlds. We turn the pages, encounter story after story. Every poem an image, a plot, mysterious and tangible. Loss, love, rage, solitude, self and memory, sentiment, the salve of creativity—our human lexicon—tendered by a feeling mind by turns wry, humorous, provoking, inflected with wisdom and curiosity—always honest. Nothing seems to come between Robertson and the page; she trusts it utterly and is wholly herself. Hers is a voice we want to hear.
Lauri Robertson has written poetry for many years– Adrienne Rich was her mentor. Her first book, An Æsthetic of Stone, was published by Spuyten Duyvil last year. Two new pre-2020 volumes, Where Do the Memories Go? and In Concert, are now offered in tandem. Lauri is a psychiatrist/ psychoanalyst formerly on the clinical faculty of Yale Medical School. She’s also a fine art photographer, represented on Nantucket Island by The Gallery at Four India: laurirobertsonphotography.com