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Bewildering Stories

On “Touching the Tiger”

by Rebecca Lu Kiernan

It is rare that any poet who has not (yet) gone down in history for his or her genius gives me that spine-tingly, goose-fleshy, ghost-breathing-on the-nape-of-my-neck feeling I can so easily give myself. Behold Oonah V. Joslin, who made me, literally, sit up straight on the edge of my seat and read “Touching the Tiger” three times. I barely have time to brush my teeth, much less read a poem thrice.

Joslin maintains perfect, unblinking control from first word to last. How lawyer-like effective I find her line “Darkness, dread and threat declawed.” How rule-breaking and luminous her phrase “No breath, no tiger breath, no rippling gold.” Oonah wraps her death-threat up perfectly with “Behold, the fearful asymmetry of death.”

Joslin makes me think about my flesh, my breath, my bones, my life and my death. Oh, she knew what she was doing all along! BwS has found another gem. What a perfect fit Joslin is to the BwS community.

Copyright © 2013 by Rebecca Lu Kiernan

“Touching the Tiger” has to be one of Oonah’s best poems, and that’s saying a lot. Taking only the first two lines you quote, we find examples of an especially fine-tuned poetic ear: in the first, alliterations of /d/ and /t/; in the second, /b/, /t/ and /g/. Now, anybody can make alliterations; it takes a poet aware of her craft to use alliterations to support meaning rather than make them an obtrusive decoration.

And finally, “the fearful asymmetry of death” does not piggyback on Wm. Blake’s poem with a gratuitous allusion but complements it, an ultimate compliment!


Copyright © 2013 by Don Webb

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