I’ve been a fan of Fern G. Z. Carr’s work for years, whether it’s orbiting Mars or in literary journals through the globe. Now to have a whole melodic book of hers to curl up with by the fire under blankets and starlight is a rare quarantine treat.
Shards of Crystal is elegantly divided into digestible sections. The collection opens with slivers of healed suffering in Carr’s “All in the Mind” poems. Her juxtaposition of the lonely experience of invisible suffering with a profound desire to connect alludes to a growing humanitarian strength. Titles like “The Elusive Language of Trees” lure readers in. Carr is the embodiment of poetic precision, unafraid to master any style. In “The Elusive Language of Trees,” words stretch elegantly across the page like graceful ballerina limbs, wide, flowing, upturned, carrying the poem like wings of an eagle. A patient inner power emerges, guiding the reader to light. Carr teaches us to listen deeply, to allow her wisdom to comfort through struggles, as verse brings the contours of suicide, anorexia and dementia into concrete images, “She puts on yesterday’s clothes/ and wonders what in hell/she will do with the next/ twenty-four hours.” Carr gets inside the heart and mind of each of her subjects to bring their broken humanity to light without judgement.“Gone” speaks deeply to natural beauty and peace of mind eroded through violation, as well as to what “remains,” how scars wound and leave survivors hidden in daily battles, whether its post-traumatic stress disorder or other unseen burdens, the permanence of the damage when a person’s right to safety is ruptured. Carr portrays the intricacy of the shadows that remain so that readers can empathize with real hope based in knowledge, experience and service, a gift of healing to those who have overcome chasms of hidden pain and those who still suffer.
The “Body Language” poems are deftly incarnate, conveying the heartbreak, powerlessness and empathy evoked in the kindness of hospital staff as a loved one undergoes treatments and diagnostics in lines such as, “doctors are politely paged/ to rush to the aid of the dying.” Carr captures a tone of graciousness and helplessness in the face of mortality.
Her empathy extends to animal lives as well. In the “Animalia” section, the collection progresses with sharp imagery that gets inside the reader, bringing the tragic loss of a puppy poisoned with strychnine to light in a way that draws readers all the way in to understand that every life matters, her imagery connecting us with the consequences of intolerance. Carr is a poet who is not afraid to use the whole page, whether it’s a concrete poem or an experimental, rhythmic compilation of fragments.
Poems through the sections, “Relatively Speaking,” “Tomorrow Is Cancelled” and “A Metamorphosis of Darkness to Light” makes the ethereal tangible in works like “I Touch a Singing Ghost” and the final “I Am,” the all-encompassing, deep truth of enlightened permission to be. Her solid diction like “entropy” sets us free, strong and grounded, unafraid to speak our truths after journeying with her, harmonizing through “the essence/ of the eternal/ that thrums/ in a voice/ resonating/ with the musicality/ of stars.
Shards of Crystal is where precision and compassion meet to leave readers in awe, as brokenness enters light. It’s not a surprise that Carr is highly regarded, not only for her meaningful and skillful poetry but also for her volunteer work for animal rights, literacy and other humanitarian causes. Carr is a classic poet who will stand the test of time.
(First published in Canadian Poetry Review)
About the Author: Fern G. Z. Carr is a former lawyer, teacher and past president of both the local branch of the British Columbia Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and Project Literacy Kelowna Society. She is a full member of the League of Canadian Poets and has served as the League’s Poet-in-Residence, mentoring young writers. A Pushcart Prize nominee, Carr composes and translates poetry in six languages, including Mandarin Chinese and has been published extensively worldwide. Her poem, “I Am,” was selected by the former Parliamentary Poet Laureate as Poem of the Month for Canada. Carr is deeply honoured to have one of her poems currently orbiting the planet Mars aboard NASA’s MAVEN spacecraft.
About the Reviewer: Cynthia Sharp is the author of the poetry collection Rainforest in Russet and the editor of Poetic Portions, an anthology of poems and recipes honouring Earth Day, featuring work by Fern G. Z. Carr and other prominent Canadian poets. She has been published and broadcast internationally, with her poetry appearing in literary journals such as CV2, untethered, Toasted Cheese, Lantern Magazine and Ascent Aspirations Magazine. She is a full member of The League of Canadian Poets and The Writers’ Union of Canada and on the executive of The Federation of British Columbia Writers. She lives on the Canadian west coast where she enjoys the beauty of the natural rainforests and coast.
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