Robert Siegel (1939—2012) is the latest poet to have a volume published in the Poiema Poetry Series. His new book, Within This Tree of Bones, is a career retrospective, which emphasizes the spiritual in his work. The four sections demonstrate: the human condition, the disclosure of God through nature, the revelation of God in scripture, and then culminates with celebration.
Dana Gioia wrote in Poetry that “Siegel’s imagination is excited by the nonhuman world, and he writes about plants and animals with surprising immediacy…A compassionate observer…he looks at them as mysterious and wonderful signs of a greater order.”
For 23 years he taught at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, and has also taught at Dartmouth, Princeton, and at Goethe University in Frankfurt.
When I last spoke with Bob, on December 10, he entrusted to me the approving of the final proofs for his new book. He died ten days later. I am honoured to have worked with Robert Siegel to edit this excellent collection for publication. He had not mentioned his battle with cancer to me, until that final phone call. I am sad to know he never held it in his hands, but am pleased that I encouraged him to add many new poems to the collection. The following is the first poem in his new book, and is the source for its title.
It is morning. A finch startles
the maple leaves. Everything’s clear
in this first light before all thins
to a locust harping on the heat.
While day clutches at my pulse
to inject the usual anesthetic,
now, Christ, stimulate my heart,
transfuse your blood to fortify my own.
Let no light upon these sheets
diminish, Lord, before I feel you
burst inward like a finch
to nest and sing within this tree of bones.
“Matins” from Within This Tree of Bones: New and Selected Poems, Wipf & Stock, Publishers. Copyright 2012 by Robert Siegel. This poem was posted with the poet’s permission. The other titles in the Poiema Poetry Series are Six Sundays Toward a Seventh by Sydney Lea, and Epitaphs for the Journey by Paul Mariani — both published in 2012.