Mercy Is a Bright Darkness: Selected Poems on Our Connectedness to Each Other through Nature’s Elements and Seasons, by Lisa Fosmo

Review by Mack Hassler

Lisa Fosmo, a fine UP poet, who identifies herself as a lifelong resident here currently living with her family in Escanaba and owning a camp West of Ishpeming, attended her first UPPAA spring conference in May 2024, says she was impressed and is now a new member of UPPAA.  I heard her read at the “open mic” session at the Crib.  And now she sends us her book of poems Mercy Is a Bright Darkness for review. (Ed. Note: no preference is given to UPPAA members at UP Book Review) The image shows the cover of the book "Mercy Is a Bright Darkness" by Lisa Fosmo. The cover features a bronze sculpture of a person bent backward with an arm extended, set against a background of a sunset and nature scenery.

We tend to think in such a regional way that our literature is distinct from the wider American literature.   Please note, however, that the imprint for Fosmo is from the magic town in New England that was the home of both Emily Dickinson and Robert Frost.  So here is a poet in our midst now who has found publication at the very heart of American poetry.  Some of these poems first appeared in the Poetry Society of Michigan Anthology; and she identifies herself, also, as vice-president of the UP Poet Laureate Foundation.  Further, Martin Achatz, twice the UP Poet Laureate, speaks highly of her work.  His blurb concludes, “Lisa Fosmo’s words contain oceans…. Dive in.”

Not only has this book and Fosmo’s work come to us from beyond the purview of the UPPAA, but also she has designed the book cover with her photography work.  She owns a set of rare 1920 art deco bookends in bronze.  They are only 5 inches tall, but they grace the cover of her book as though they were a full-sized Greek goddess along the golden Escanaba shore.  Midway in the collection, she has a poem on the death of her father and the depositing of his ashes along his shore:

At what point do we really leave?
Does anyone know with certainty
when the soul leaves the body?
In this mystery
this infinite continuum.
“The Arrival”  p.39

A woman with long, wavy dark hair is facing the camera. She has light skin and is wearing a light-colored top with a floral pattern. She has minimal makeup and a neutral expression.

Lisa Fosmo

Fosmo works very hard in her celebration of Nature as it actually is.   I think she is an authentic and very effective voice for our UP sensibility, and I am glad she was pleased with our spring conference this year and is now a UPPAA poet.  Here is her boast near the end of her book in a poem called “The Bee Keepers Prayer.”  P. 86

The statement again is about death:

Look at all these lovely things,
I will be there in all of them
making the world go on
in bits and pieces
carried by the bees.

Her poems and the book itself are slick;  and, I think effective as old-fashioned “Nature” deism or pantheism.  There is a passage in Mark where Jesus echoes Job and says to the Sea of Gallilee, “ocean Be Still.”  So foreign to her pantheism of ocean that Achatz says “Dive in.”   In any case, her pantheism works.  (Mark 4:41 after Job: 38;11)

Mercy Is a Bright Darkness: Selected Poems on Our Connectedness to Each Other through Nature’s Elements and Seasons, by Lisa Fosmo (Golden Dragonfly Press, Amherst, Massachusetts, 2023) 93 pages, pbk, n.p.

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