Review of ‘Walking Through the Forest’ by Jesse Palmer

We’ve been set a class exercise – to review two items from kiss me hardy, NMIT’s online literary and arts journal.

The first item that I chose to review from Issue 1 is the poem ‘Walking Through the Forest’ by Jesse Palmer, which is a glosa. I picked this poem as it’s a form that I have to research for an assignment in my poetry course.

Image from kiss me hardy Issue 1

The photo next to the thumbnail text is a picture of a forest, oozing calmness, which sets the tone for the poem’s subject matter.

A glosa is an adaptation of a complex form that originates in Spain or Portugal, taking lines from an existing poem to use as a starting point for their own poem. Each stanza of the new poem concludes with one of the original poet’s lines, in the original order.

The English equivalent of ‘glosa’ is ‘gloss’. Gloss is a noun meaning ‘a translation or explanation of a word or phrase.’ – from Google’s English dictionary provided by Oxford Languages. Popular Poetry Forms explains that the texte – the lines of the original poem – consists of a few lines that set the theme, upon which the new poem expands. The glosa or glose expands upon each line of the texte and ends with that line. Most commonly, the response is ten lines in length, although this is not a strict rule, according to Writers Digest.

The Poetry Society website calls a glosa ‘an embrace: it brings you up close and personal with the work glossed.’

Jesse Palmer has selected a text from Rumi that talks about the nature of love and how it is greater than those that have the emotion, drawing a comparison to small eyes seeing things much larger than themselves. The glosa keeps to strict form, being of four stanzas of ten lines that end with consecutive lines of the texte. There is no strict meter or rhyme scheme. The author has chosen to dispense with capitalisation, but to maintain punctuation.

The first stanza focuses on a ladybug clinging to rocks at the water’s edge. The second moves through the forest, describing the sensations of walking and moving from the physical heart to the emotional heart. The third focuses on an owl looking at the moon. The last stanza looks from a deer in the sunlight to a worm being sought by a bird.

Clear images are conjured up one after the other, tracking the walker’s progress and using Rumi’s lines to comment on what is being said. The author has made use of internal rhymes and half-rhymes to give a musical tone to the poem – steady / sturdy, worm / squirm, hides / sky.

There are some lovely word-plays in the poem – ‘leaving the leaves left’, ‘footsteps step’, ‘shoes shooing’, ‘dear deer’ – but so many of them that they start to feel a little contrived.

It seems that the poet is expanding on the original texte by using the forest as an extension of the small being in Rumi’s poem. As such, I find it partially successful. For me, it lacks an ‘aha!’ moment that makes me feel that the original has been fully embraced and expanded on.

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