as a Lotus
Letters to a
6 x 9 inches
Originally given an old copy of Thomas Mertons Seeds of Contemplation
by a friends mother, Lisa Gill began a series of 14 line poems
which meticulously transcribe her own spiritual reckoning. As a response
to Mertons life and echoing the resonance she found in a world-view
which included Christian contemplative life as well as Eastern religions
and political work, she has fashioned a testament driven by a hard-ass
sincerity capable of seeing her own distinct life. With a hunger that
fallibility makes for receptivity and an eye which stays true to the
bone, these poems lead toward the deep nature of immediate landscape
and psyche with a capacity for perceiving their connectedness. A resolution
exists here that poetry is indeed a callinga journey of consequences
where one keeps asking questions while pulled by a sense of Presence.
Thomas Merton acts as inspiration as well as a friend for such dialogue,
someone to hold her to scrutiny and not allow the glossing over of whats
real. In turns terrifying, funny, fierce, and transcendent, any one
of these poems would reward a days meditation, yet it is impossible
to stop reading them one after the other. Spare and lush at the same
time, they work together like a tapestry of ever deepening revelations.
Take nothing for granted, open the door, notice everythingknow
yourself, know poverty, doubt, ecstasy. For Lisa Gill every day is the
first and last day of the world. Brilliant and uncompromising, this
book will certainly appeal to anyone drawn to the sensibilities of Merton
or the beauty of language at the service of inquiry.
Red as a Lotus like
life is a peaceful mysterya book that reaches and while its
reaching, the readers mind wakes and the body wakes, and the tingling
world exists as language and right next to it. Its sort of a prayer
and a love letter and something to keep next to the bed and the toilet
and on your writing desk. Damn, shes good. Maybe shes talking
to Thomas Merton, but Lisa Gill wrote it for me.
Red as a Lotus is a revelation. Its spiritual economy, its sense of
character and place, and its fierce linguistic playfulness invite comparisons
to Annie Dillard and Emily Dickinson. Like Thomas Merton, to whom these
poems are written, Lisa Gill is a pilgrim of the inner life, willing
whenever possible to live in a solitude that goes against the grain
of our time.
This book is a testament to a rare kind of spiritual courage, one that
is aware of its own unsteadiness, and because of this it is never pompous.
It is a courage cloaked in humility, a courage violated by every doubt
and suffering, a courage of almost hostile tendernessand a sincerity
that can rip you to shreds. Lisa Gill is not content to merely occupy
a world, or even simply observe it. She must dismantle the world, and
the assumptions that sustain it, down to the barest bolts and put it
all back together again. We are left with the same world at the end
of the book, but our awareness is forever altered.
Lisa Gill has just written a dazzling little
journal of poetic meditations, Red as a Lotus: Letters to a Dead
Trappist. Living alone in a little trailer by an alfalfa field with
a copy of Thomas Mertons Seeds of Contemplation, shes
woven a delicate basket of direct address to her dead monk muse (and
the brilliant poet of Cables to the Ace), a Dickinsonian attention to
simple lyric details, and a postmodern assemblage artists splash
Red as a Lotus:
Letters to a Dead Trappist
by Lisa Gill
A Review by Jessica Powers
Lisa Gill wrote Red as a Lotus during the two years that she
lived alone in a trailer next to an alfalfa field and while reading
Thomas Mertons book, Seeds of Contemplation. Merton claims,
The purpose of a book of meditations is to teach you how to think
and not to do your thinking for you. So she started writing letters
to this Catholic monk, a man who died before she was even born. She
couldnt help herself. Simply reading and living where she did
drew the letters out of her.
I write because we have something in common,
not death though that might work metaphorically,
rather whats in our chests: your sternum and
my sternum are so similar I find myself hopeful.
Perhaps life can be endured despite this nasty bone.
She ends with an explanation that shes been
studying Chinese, and is curious about the word zizijiao,
which she thinks means:
the cry of a girl
whod prefer to be a bird or a monkey but cant. So she contemplates
sandpipers, hoping at least to figure out how to move when moving,
and how to be still when still, body mind and tongue consensual.
In between the beginning and end, Gills
poetry whispers the wisdom of mystics and monks daily meditation.
She tells Merton no end of secrets she learns from the desert:
Perspective is shifty as a coyote,
and This part, where you learn / to dig, is not easy
You begin to hunger / for harvests. You begin to search for whats
Shes lonely, but its the sort of loneliness sought in order
to find strength. She wishes, unaccountably, to be pulled over by cops,
or maybe by William Carlos Williams, so I could be seen for who
Gills honesty and simplicity tug at what makes all of us human,
and what makes us all long for something outside ourselves.
Lisa Gill is an award-winning fiction writer, poet, performance artist,
and community organizer. She lives near Moriarty, New Mexico.