BOOK REVIEW: Paradise is Jagged

by | Mar 27, 2023 | Book Reviews, The Attic

PARADISE IS JAGGED by Ann Fisher-Wirth

Paradise is Jagged
by Ann Fisher-Wirth
Terrapin Books, 2023
116 pages
Reviewed by Murali Sivaramakrishnan


At three I knelt on the back seat
of my mother’s car and, looking out the window,
said, There’s so much to see


Ann Fisher-Wirth does not moralise, does not preach, but simply reaches for the essence of reality. The poems in this volume are meditative, personal and intimate. They resonate in the silence that the genuine reader feels as each page is turned and each line is relished. The silence is rich with interconnections: the poet invokes her father, mother, sister, a still-born daughter, friends and the natural world. The evocative imagery awakens a rich world, vibrant and breathing. And what particularly drew my attention as a sahrdaya or of-like-heart, is the manner in which her poetic voice brings the outer and inner world into one soft unique blend. Nowhere in this series of poems is any conscious effort to draw connections or parallels, but the living strand of life appears to vibrate in an intuitive harmony. The voice that one hears is certainly of a mature poet who that has lived life intensely, passionately.  Being bold enough to stand up and state “I was alive while the nations killed the earth” the poet struggles to bear ultimate witness to poetry.  In one poem we read “Mostly I kept to my own small life…” however, one can sense the resonance of the larger experiences of a world far and near.

The opening poem A Young Stag at Dusk, is stark and direct: it sets the tone for what follows:


White tail flicking, eating flowers
heaped on a raw grave,

he raises his head to watch us
before he vanishes slowly into the trees.


Outside the kitchen window,
my Peace roses ride on arching stems
like moons in a lead-white sky.

My? All year, earth holds them,
I ignore them.


Night thickens among the branches

of gingko, maple, willow oak, cherry,
redbud, and the thicket of bamboo

that surround this wooden house.
Sometimes I am afraid.


At three I knelt on the back seat

of my mother’s car and, looking out the window,
said, There’s so much to see

and so little time to see it. Or so I’ve been told.
It’s like that now, watching the leaves.


Bread rises in the oven.

May the stag sink back into the forest.
May the petals drop on the grass.

Whoever you are, may you be at peace
in this great silence, where only the birds speak.


“There’s so much to see/and so little time to see it…” This is a sort of guiding line that could act as a touchstone to experience the functioning of this poet’s heart. What usually mark out genuine poetry are such insights, such soft touches of the essential truth of living. And as each poem unfolds, one is inching closer to an inner reality where in this great silence… only the birds speak.

After this the rest of the book is set forth in five segments and the poems layered forth like an orchestrated musical concert. The poet writes of hope and the nature of the self: it is like looking out of a moving vehicle. All things pass like a nameless landscape but many things cling on like burrs. Some images linger on caressing the heart like the touch of mother.


I woke her up one night. I’m afraid of something that starts
with D.
She was quiet a moment, thinking. She put her arms around


Ann Fisher-Wirth’s poetry abounds in strong emotions and yet her poetic narrative does not over-sentimentalise. The reader is called upon to share in her world, as in this one:


And I recall the chapel—my navy blue wool dress,
my fear to touch his face,
one bronze chrysanthemum petal
falling on his hand. Our mother telling the undertaker,
Let me fix his hair.
He never wore it parted quite so high.


It is not easy to write poetry that is affirmative in our century, wherever we are. The world of today is so steeped in corruption, emotional and otherwise. And it is quite comforting to enter the world of Paradise Is Jagged.

I shall close this brief review with one of my favourites: “Owl”


What does the day bring?

When does the night end?

__________________________Amid the dark trees
_____________the owl conjures her victims
___________________with her song


Ann Fisher-Wirth’s Paradise Is Jagged is poetry that pleases the genuine reader, because she writes from the heart without indifference, malice or ill-will. Prophetic insights like “Before you were as after you will be…” or “I was alive while the nations killed the earth” and …the human race, we don’t deserve this beauty” surface as in an unconstrained natural melody. And poetry volumes like these go on to prove that the poetry of the world is never dead.    

About The Author


Artist, Poet,Professor and former Head of the Department of English, Pondicherry Central University. Having voluntarily left the university currently working as independent scholar and artist. He is the founder President of ASLE India.