Form and Content

(Survey of Young Adult Fiction)

In the anthology Under All Silences: Shades of Love, Ruth I. Gordon compiles sixty-six poems and songs about love in which the emotional strength of each poem is linked to the sum of the whole. The collection explores diverse cultures and insights as the author draws on the works of ancient Egyptian, Chinese, and Persian poets and medieval Japanese poets to create a geographical and historical representation of deep thought and warm feelings. The structure of the anthology links these carefully selected poems to themes that may be carried from poem to poem or merely connect two of them in an understated union. The silences of all times and cultures speak in this collection, the kind of silence that only poets can allow the reader to experience. Love, as defined among these verses, travels from its inception at first meetings, through discovery, passion, and knowledge, and then beyond.

The format of the book allows easy reading. Each poem is isolated, having its own page, its own space. The reader can dwell or move on at leisure. When possible, the name of the poet and other pertinent data such as translation information and country of origin are provided. An extensive acknowledgment section cites sources and serves as an excellent reference tool for readers who want to research further works by a particular poet. For quick reference, Gordon provides both an index of authors and an index of titles. For those with a penchant for memorization, the first line of all poems are indexed at the end of the book.

The titles of the poems often express the content, and readers can make the transition from the song “The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face” to the poem “As We Are So Wonderfully Done with Each Other.” Some poems speak of love from a distance—sometimes of the love of youths who are too timid to allow their paramours secret winks or soft words. Suddenly, but not too suddenly, the focus of the poems becomes more sensual. Physical togetherness and celebration of the human body sing from the pages. Occasionally, one reads of love unrequited, of a lover leaving. The full circle of emotions is reached with the maturity of relationships that have borne out time and trials; the poets speak of a union that not all know. Gordon ends with E. E. Cummings asking whether “lovers love.”