I went to sleep last night remembering Janice Porter and woke thinking of Incantations of My House, a book of poetry by Janet Rothbart that Janice illustrated. I found it in the fifth of my many boxes of stored books, while mourning doves low-talked in my yard. True. That book one of the few things I chose to have from Howard’s overturned apartment.* It’s inscribed to him – “happy reading – love All Ways” – and includes Northern Sun Alliance in the acknowledgments, the maker of connections that meant I would one day meet Janice.
I admit I never read it cover to cover. I rarely read books of poetry cover to cover. If it’s crap, I put it down out of frustration. If it’s good, I put it down overwhelmed, returning little by little. Incantations hit so close to home I could barely open it. Thirty years later – 30 years! – I’m ready for it, and it sounds eerily current.
From the Preface: ...It’s odd to pull back the veneer of “enlightened” roles that we men and women now play & find underneath the old rigid role behaviors which we have fought against and challenged in our daily lives, as well as in the highest courts. My point is not to say that it’s useless to try to change our beliefs & patterns as men & women, only that it will take longer than we ever imagined it would, and has less to do with our desire to change our work structures than with the basis of the mysticism that has evolved our country; and when we get to the bottom of that I think there will be a massive revelation. (Sept. 1, 1983)
A stanza from
“I am not alone. My belly has blossomed”
more than to be in the brood state,
bursting with bud, filled
rather than empty: is it more intriguing
to be perpetually at ready
or more exciting in the fulfillment?
approaching the goal, this is the life process,
evolution & dreams,
for the life cycles repeat in huge round circles
greater than time in numbers can conceive
it consumes all,
my mind centers on this point: conception
like but not like the intentional spark of genius
one could not have such ego to say
that mind creates this too
(c) 1984 Janet L Rothbart
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*I’m happy to say that, unlike the two volumes of Woody Allen short stories I also inherited, Incantations doesn’t have the ghost of black fingerprint dust on it.