The Startled Land
The Startled Land

Poetry by Rochelle Mass

Category: Poetry
Formats: PDF eBook, Trade Paperback 
ISBN: eBook 0-9721513-4-6; Paperback 0-9721513-3-8 (141 pages)
Cost: eBook, US$5.00; Paperback, US$14.00

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With a woman's grace and a survivor's determination, Rochelle Mass has carefully wrought her first full-length poetry collection. Labeled a masterpiece in advance reviews, The Startled Land is an epic exploration of honesty and hope in a world brocaded with the trials of everyday life and the tragedies of an embattled land.

Just as Dickinson contended she recognized good poetry by, “I feel as if the top of my head had been taken off,” I too have a physical gauge, in that my pulse speeds and my breath stops. This is how I experienced The Started Land by Israeli poet Rochelle Mass; my body alerted me I was in the hands of a master poet, and these poems, so much like stories within snapshots, made me constantly catch my breath.

Rochelle Mass draws the present back into history, telling poetic tales which quickly change us readers into prescient mortals who can indeed weave in and out of Time. These are stories of Israel, of childhood, of loves, of Jerusalem, and some of the horrors exported by Jenin. There are terrorists in Israel who also perform tricks of Time, terrible tricks to compress a thousand years of loathing into one second of absolute hatred.

Yet The Startled Land is about life, the mystery and allure of life in a dangerous land. Mass performs the work of the poet—the juxtaposition by stanza of seemingly unrelated objects or events—like no one else. She shows us the poetry of how all that lives or occurs on earth is intimately related in her universe. In the end she displays for us the evidence of the poet: how this is a life that, despite all, not only must be lived but must be lived with exhilaration. The Startled Land is substantiation.

- Ward Kelley

This is not a book about simply “reinventing” the self insomuch as self-discovery through exploration and redefining one’s boundaries by returning to the land. So when the book ends on the poem, “The Mind of Winter”:

Winter, where I was born, made the earth a deeper place
filled it with loneliness as tough as the coal piled
in my father’s basement.
I believed the wind ruled—
not a careless power
rather the one constant
giving me no choice but to bend,
invent new posture”

it answer the questions, “Why did you come?…I couldn’t say then but/after twenty years and more I know/I came to join the women before me” to a land where “the cotton is swelling again.” It meets the promise of rebirth and regeneration signaling the end of one woman’s journey ultimately coming full circle.

In conclusion, I was not satisfied with one read through of Rochelle’s book. I needed several careful rereads to digest and absorb all that The Startled Land had to offer. It is a masterpiece that deserves to be recognized. Anyone familiar with Anna Akhmatova’s work will instantly recognize the movement, Acmeism (which Anna espoused) in The Startled Land. Acmeism insisted upon the virtues of lucid, carefully crafted verse by reacting against the vagueness of the Symbolist style. There is nothing vague about Rochelle Mass’ silk-spun style of writing and nothing left to dispute—it delivers a story in over a hundred poems with the wisdom and assured grace of a woman who has no illusions or apologies about life.

- Tryst Magazine

I loved Rochelle's collection. It has such a comfortable, personal feel filled with honesty and warmth. In contrast, there are many these days who give you such an intimate view of their life that the words, "too much information" come to mind as they border on the offensive. Not in Rochelle's case. I was often reminded of the feeling I had sitting in the kitchen with my mum as a little girl gossiping. Similarly, her poetry elicits a feeling of comfortable familiarity as she tells you about seemingly ordinary everyday memories. She does so in such an elegant way that the underlying meanings of such moments that we often overlook in our busy lives are exposed. ... There is a quiet poise and beauty about this collection. It is memorable, touching and thoughful. I highly recommend it for everyone.

- Kim Hegerberg