With Blue Himalayan Poppies, Jay Ruzesky collects his best poetry of the past seven years. Acclaimed as one of Canada's most interesting and innovative contemporary poets for his first two books, Am I Glad to See You (Thistledown, 1992) and the highly praised and influential Painting the Yellow House Blue (Anansi, 1994), Ruzesky has produced his best collection yet.
Ruzesky applies his fully matured and honed skills to the creation of a stunning fresco that spans the universal dilemma of life itself: the haunting and invigorating importance of family and lifelong friends ("the way the sudden memory of someone/ surprises the mind"), both the comfort and the solitude brought about by love, the ever-present desire of escape and the never ending circle of the routine, destruction and most importantly, regeneration.
In Blue Himalayan Poppies, a borrowed book becomes a stolen token of intimate love, a looming mushroom cloud signifies a teenage couple's belief in the overriding power of human vitality, an empty hotel room turns into a scene of lust so intense and unbridled that it could only be a product of a maid's imagination and a common household is transformed into a glowing Garden of Eden by a sidewalk chalk artist. Jay Ruzesky's exploration of everyday life is a boon and a treasure to us all; he offers the big picture, in which he is just as likely to inform little plastic men found under the couch that "grief/ is the other side/ of the pleasure your faces speak of" as he is to relate the astonishment of looking into the night sky and realizing "Oh my God, it's full of stars."
Ruzesky's poems convince me that the last, most difficult revolution is in the head. After all the other struggles to arrive here -- this North American safety: its comforts, its sustenance -- it is precisely this place of driveways, mortgages, monogamy, children, strip malls, all the longing and restlessness in this place ["the mess we're making of our lives"] -- that is Ruzesky's territory, and he's making a great map of it.
Herein is a poem which spends most of its time and lines showing us a hotel maid standing before the sign on a bedroom door and imagining, behind that door, "Two whose mouths are so full of each other,/ they cannot speak, or be disturbed," and another one, "Glass Eye," which offers "He looks at me with his good eye,/ dark socket also aiming." You feel that Jay Ruzesky can do these Eros-driven and clear-as-glass things all night and half the next day, so apparently effortlessly do they line up on his pages. This is a fine sequel to Painting the Yellow House Blue.
Jay Ruzesky creates and re-creates Eden -- its passions, its beauties, its losses. So, that's what he writes about. But how does he write it? With passion, with beauty, with loss.