Jeannie E. Roberts’ pandemic inspired collection of poems As If Labyrinth is an intentioned meditation of spirit and striving through a time of darkness. “The light surrounds the margins with hope.” Reminiscent of Mary Oliver’s closeness with the natural world, Roberts writes poetic transmutations through the white pine, rose quartz, oak, soaring eagle— her botanical contemplations bloom in the cosmos. In these chaotic times, these poems are a healing balm, a snowy walk in the muffled woods, a song sparrow’s brave crescendo. “Hope repeats/in predictable variations of marvel” and these poems guide us to a “more unified manifestation/where humanity shines as an integrated whole.”
—Kai Coggin, Author of Periscope Heart, Wingspan, and Incandescent
In the dedication for this fine collection, Jeannie E. Roberts quotes Rumi, Love is the bridge between you and everything. In poem after poem, Roberts is on that bridge. Whether honoring the natural world, remembering those she has lost, or thanking front-line workers, Roberts affirms what we must cherish during this pandemic time. Often incorporating scientific knowledge, exhibiting skill with both formal and free verse, these poems move us with powerful images. In the epigraph to “Saving Painted Turtles,” Roberts quotes Fred Rogers, Look for the helpers. With these poems, Jeannie E. Roberts is one of them.
—Penny Harter, Author of A Prayer the Body Makes; Still-Water Days (Kelsay Books)
In these intricate, wide-eyed poems, As If Labyrinth by Jeannie E. Roberts, the poet takes the reader on an odyssey of awakenings and transitions, with a voice that is at once lyrical, wonderous and impacting. She renders intricate cautionary tales of juxtaposed worlds, “Insects are caught midst the gossamer strands.” Roberts has a keen sense of the tenuous boundaries in the natural world, and how something like a ‘perilous world pandemic’ can make us see the essential yearnings of what it is to be human in a chaotic world. This poet’s potions are made of bewitching cadences and imagery that prods us to see the beauty and magic in the most ordinary happenings. By turns lyrical and exacting, this voice can make a hymn of air moving in a room, “breezes swayed your cotton dress /in the ancient city.” These carefully observed poems reveal the tender ways our bodies exist in the world, and deftly guide us through a garden sanctuary of reckoning. The possibilities of joy and beauty transcend the difficult challenges of our lives at war with a virus. As If Labyrinth is a rich and indelible collection, to be savored and retraced as a healing salve in a precarious world. The poet confirms, “I have faith in signs.”—this book is an elegant beam of light in darkness.
—Cynthia Atkins, Author of Still-Life With God