The Outer Gate: The Collected Poems of Nora May French


Including ten poems never before published, The Outer Gate builds upon Nora May French's one posthumously printed book of poems, collected long ago from her fugitive writings by George Sterling and others. Both books are wonderful tributes to the lovely young California poet who took her own life at the age of twenty-six; but the new edition, finely edited by Donald Sidney-Fryer and Alan Gullette, brings together much biographical material and even critical appraisal. Sidney-Fryer's recounting of her story is archivally patient yet gripping, judicious and never salacious. If I may be forgiven for quoting my own poem in tribute to Nora May French, the brilliant California Romantic, it was inspired by this book:

To Nora May French (1881-1907)

Dear golden-haired, self-hurtful lone young poet,
branded a “suicide” or “poetess”
in sniping news, you dwelled in shapes, exquisite
shapes you could slip from: nautilus, chrysalis.
Each abalone-wrack you fled bestowed what
wrenched-open rainbows, glancing to excess!
Fine water, sifting cyanide in your glass…
O major Californian, never to know it!

Sly charmer, self-developer self-withholding,
you restively dealt out quips laced with evasion;
skimmed feverish hummingbird fields of lover-flower.
All inward shiver-drum and skin sensation,
you craved rainhammer aches, craved stinging showers;
yet you left kindness, and a most Keatsian unfolding.
Date Added: 07/01/2010 by Tom Goff