California State Poetry Society Poetry Letter
Book Review by Joe DeCenzo: Letters under Rock by Rinne and Thach
Letters under Rock: Performance Poetry by Cindy Rinne and Bory Thach. ISBN 978-1-334529-0-8, paperback,86x pages. $16.95+S&H. Elyssar Press, 2019. https://elyssarpress.com/books/letters-under-rock/
Letters Under Rock: A Spiritual Emergence Through the Arousal of the Heart
Within the pages of the earth toned cover lives a work to calm an anxious mind and awaken a slumbering spirit. Cindy Rinne and Bory Thach have done more than compose a book of ethereal poetry. They are the parents of a performance art experience conceived from the realms of both eastern and western philosophies and faceted with tradition and lore from an array of cultures. It gestated for a number of months as the artists corresponded in letters which allowed their characters of the orphaned Wanderer and Nomad to channel through them, using them for the vessel as their charismata evolved.
Rather than leap at the reader like a bolting deer, the cover draws you in with its matte finish and placid hues of tan, clary sage and flecks of coral. Coiled koi fish, often seen as a symbol of harmony, perseverance and enduring love swim peacefully above the title. And the screened image of stacked rocks does more than imply the obvious balance we all seek in life. To the yoga master, it’s a meditation practice of quieting the mind while finding patience and intensifying focus. To the Buddhist, it could be a form of worship or request for good luck. While to the hiker/traveler, rock cairns mark rugged trails to aid those seeking a way down from the mountain or out of the forest or most usually a way home.
The introductions by the authors are meaningful in that they afford a glint of insight to the process that produced the work. We are invited to engage our palates for we will taste the flavors of many lands. We’re shown images of the Wanderer and Nomad to enhance visual recognition. We’re also shown a photo of the 12’ x 2’ tapestry sewn by Cindy Rinne which features prominently in the physical presentation of the work. It’s a blend of patterns, colors and textures harmoniously combined to create a collage of their feelings perhaps mementos gathered from their travels. Let the journey begin.
The poetry resides in a series of letters written to each other. The anguish of their separation steadily grows through their endless nights of longing. We get the sense many of the letters were composed late into the night when daylight steals stars from the sky, signs of life begin to stir and another day of searching for their love’s desire begins. It is clear the lovers are one spirit, of one mindset tragically separated by untold miles able only to touch each other dimensionally on a cosmic plane free from physical obstacles. Allusions to the precepts of Taoism, Buddhism, Hinduism and ancient mythology are woven through the pages like silver threads in an heirloom quilt.
The correspondence of the Wanderer and Nomad takes us back to the era when thoughts and feelings were imbued on the material page. When somehow the expression flowed down the arm, past the wrist, through the hands and fingers then impregnated the parchment through the pen. The intent of the sender was tangible with its energy transferred to the receiver once in their grasp. Days of anticipation and feelings of expectancy are palpable as the Nomad and Wanderer await a beneficent courier to deliver the envelope often showing signs of wear from its miles of travel. The stamps and postmarks of different lands, territories and boundaries the message had to cross before its arrival are depicted in the patchwork garments the characters wear and exquisitely evident in the imagery written, “Maple leaves fall in the windblown spring of autumn. Birth and annihilation lead me to your footsteps.” pg.49
The book is divided in sections, each depicting a different phase in the developmental growth of their awareness of each other, their ancestral roots and their dependence on nature. In their respective worlds everything is sentient. The birds that surround them; the insects that pervade; the rocks, trees, stars and moon all breathe their existence. Tenderness and affection are the fundamental essence of their writing. Despite the seclusion and loneliness separation brings, they orbit around the gravitational power of their dreams, “With the cosmos falling apart, you alone make it beautiful… For your face has become a psalm of memory, never to be forgotten.” pg. 35 Each section is sealed with a wax stamp of the author’s emblem, one a heron, the other a dragon to insure privacy and hand of origin.
The Wanderer who is constantly seeking and the Nomad who never settles long in one place convey their sorrows ironically in their depictions of the wonders of nature. Yes, a feeling a melancholy permeates, but they are so connected spiritually there is an underscoring of hope and promise of deliverance as they suffer their isolation, endure their demise and are revived through their souls’ transmigration.
To comprehend this story beyond the printed text, this author encourages you to take a companion of similar perception and read your copy outdoors by firelight during a meteor shower far away from urban distractions that would interrupt the true sounds of Prithvi Mata. For silence isn’t the absence of sound but the acquisition of peace. Take turns reading the passages out loud to each other and to the rocks and leaves. Then listen for their comments. Letters Under Rock reminds us that dreams are eternally ours, but the earth and its trappings are only ours to borrow.
Joe DeCenzo, Tujunga, CA