Secret of White
ISBN 978-1-933132-68-6 $12.00 72 pages
Inhabiting Barbara Tomash’s The Secret of White one has the experience of living inside a work of art—not on the finished canvas, but inside its becoming, in the wrist and eye, in the very brush stroke where the artist is wed to the source of color, form, and motion, and “yellow is everywhere collapsing.” Tomash astounds with the integrity of her inquiry, at once delicate and sturdy, accurate and loving, a meditation on the triumphs of representation as much as its ghosted removes from “a white that cannot be recited or painted.” These exceptional poems lead us “to see again how an infant sees, before the mind creates vision.”
There comes a time in life when a poet sees so clearly into “The White Interior” that she perceives light, death, and time together. It is this perception of the deep and essential frame of light and darkness that gives The Secret of White its ceremonial power. It’s the presence of all colors together that Bonnard sought to understand, the sensual curve of the lily’s sepal, and the fleeting whiteness of skin touched by the painter’s blue hand. By means of white and the vivid reds and blues it contains, Barbara Tomash examines the mystery of perception, that things do indeed exist in “realism’s white heave ho,” that through our masks of being we might see and know before our mother calls us to shlofen, gey shlofen. Tread softly though this fierce and lovely book.
Barbara Tomash’s The Secret of White is a marvel of language, written with acute patience and precision. Each line and image is crafted with the care of embroidery, the pen and paper giving way to the needle and thread— “if I read what I have written I will loosen the stitches.” Loosening these stitches reveals a world rich with color and a beauty embedded in the everyday—“plums/ cracked open, red threads spun/ into grey—”
Barbara Tomash was born in Washington, D.C.,and raised in Los Angeles.
She worked extensively as a multimedia artist before her creative interests
turned her toward writing. In 1998,she received her M.F.A. in Creative Writing
from San Francisco State University, where she now teaches. Her poetry has
appeared widelyin literary journals, including New AmericanWriting, Colorado
Review, and ZYZZYVA. An earlier version of Flying in Water was a finalist for
the Autumn House Press Book Award and a semi-finalist for the Slope Editions
Book Prize and the Nightboat Poetry Prize. She lives in Berkeley, California
with her husband and son.