Gordon credits her youthful audience with having the maturity to experience love through the beauty of other people’s words. The gentle affection that is portrayed in the early poems soon warms to passion and intimacy that only a lover can know. Such a lover, however, may be one who has loved in the flesh or in the heart—and these poems assure readers of both the difference and the sameness. Gordon prefaces her book with a comment about being struck dumb by strong emotions, the ones felt in all stages of love. She lets the reader know that she has chosen these poems so that feelings can find release, expressing the love that is under all the silences.
In exploring these poems, readers will notice several themes. Composed as a popular song and made popular by Roberta Flack, “The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face” begins the book with the rapture of initial love—the experience of love at first sight. Next, folksinger Joan Baez offers a gentle love song: She does not want to be told of eternal love; she simply wants to know of passionate strangers, of a selfishness in wanting but not giving. Then, a Hebrew poem allows the reader to compare the love of a woman to the beauty of an apple.
Several short, sweet Japanese poems reveal deeper meanings than the few phrases representing their thoughts. A seventh century Greek poem wonders at a lover’s presence and laments her absence. A series of poems speaks of the bliss of two being together...
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Ruth Gordon is a highly respected librarian who received her Ph.D. at the University of California at Berkeley. She spent her early years as a professional librarian in the eastern United States and eight years as a teacher for the Department of Defense in Aviano, Italy, and she eventually settled in California. She actively writes critiques in professional journals, but, most important to her, she anthologizes poetry for younger readers. She compiled the poems for Time Is the Long Distance (1991), in which she strives to link mortality and time; she expresses the human need for that connection. Some of these poems revolve around unimaginable circumstances in which people find themselves, such as a definite state of doom. Gordon’s Pierced by a Ray of Sun (1995) takes another step, another route to reflect the concern of time and timelessness. Again, she crosses cultural and time barriers and examines the spectrum of emotions—hope and despair, gain and loss.
Gordon merited mention as one of the Best of the 80’s by Booklist for both Time Is the Long Distance and Under All Silences. Under All Silences was chosen as a Best Book of 1987 by two prestigious organizations, School Library Journal and the American Library Association. Reviewers expressed an open-arms acceptance of her anthology, noting that the greeting card approach to love has little comparison to the genuineness expressed by true love poetry. Gordon is adamant that young people be able to read and learn of love through the beauty of poetry.
Gordon collected other poems in Peeling the Onion: An Anthology of Poems (1993). Although she also writes critiques, reviews, and professional papers, creating anthologies seems to be her forte. Gordon is a member of several children’s literature associations and has a strong commitment to the earth, as expressed in her association with Friends of the Earth and the Sierra Club. Both of these positions, as well as her attraction to poetry focusing on love and youth, guide Gordon in her selection process.