Luminosity by Miriam Sagan
Reviewed by Karla Linn Merrifield
Miriam Sagan’s newest poetry book, Luminosity (Duck Lake Books, 2019, 80 pages), is an eye-opening poetic experience that will leave you wanting more from the poet’s distinctive modern Renaissance mind. Most of us can remember the dramatic 2017 total solar eclipse, but I suspect none of us rendered the great celestial event into such wise, lyrical poetry as may be found in Luminosity. In “Woman, Sleeping I-20,” Sagan writes, “we are going to drive to Nebraska/ to see the total darkness” and we realize that by contemplating total darkness, we may also comprehend what it is to be bathed in total light, whether from the sun emerging from eclipse, or the moon—a recurring metaphor for light in darkness—or from Ceres and Orion’s belt in the night sky.
From the opening page, every poem brings its luminous reward. In the lead poem, “Book of Darkness,” we are told, “…light must close the cover/ on darkness.” Many are such quiet declarations we can ponder. In “A Funeral in Pawnee,” Sagan invites us to consider “the loneliness of beauty.” She also asks questions we need to answer for ourselves. Again from “A Funeral in Pawnee,” she asks, “what did I expect/ to be betrayed?/ and what supplies/ did I prepare/ from this betrayal?” Which betrayal? What supplies?! I’m still mulling over the concepts she addresses.
Luminosity delivers many moments of pure delight. One simply must smile when reading in “every poem,” “every poem/ should have some fireflies”.
The book also touches us with bittersweet flashes. In “Dunkin’ Donuts,” we read,
Each of us
carries a map of the day,
What does your map of this day look like? Where lie the creases and stains?
Prepare to be uplifted and transported in revelatory light–and shadow–from without as well as within “your different selves.” Miriam Sagan’s Luminosity invites you to contemplate not only the “loneliness/ of beauty,” but also “the architecture/ of suffering,” knowing, however, that “Buddha nature is everywhere” and that truth will always arise from “a fog bank/ of lies.” Luminosity is wildly, boldly illuminating.
Editor’s Note: Luminosity is available in trade paperback for about $16.00 and as an e-book for about $4.00 from most major booksellers.