Since 1996 Volume XXI

Joan Gelfand


“What the Wind Taught Me,”

Pearl Werbach

Blue Light Press, Nov. 2017

ISBN: 9781421837826


What makes a writer? First, there are the obvious talents: exceptional capacity for astute observation, artful employment of writing technique (metaphor, analogy, imagination,) and unusual, surprising and delightful descriptions. What makes a great writer? A gift for glimpsing and grappling with the beauty and terror of living without slipping into cliché, dogma, or diatribe.


Pearl Werbach is an eleven-year-old poet who has been studying in an after-school poetry club at Brandeis Day School in San Francisco. As we locals say, “she’s got the transmission.”  In a first collection Werbach creates a world that is filled with the joy and wonder you might expect from a school aged writer, but also allows us a glimpse into her personal angst that is unexpected from an 11-year-old. Pearl intuits the dangers that linger just beyond our daily lives while holding fast to the sublime pleasures of the wind, moon, trees and insects.



From “The Next Blue Moon”


“The man in the moon winked at me!/I saw his reflection in the water/Under the shade of a tree.”
Here the poet uses rhyme, imagery and meter to bring us into her poem and carrying us gracefully to the next line and the next.  

In “Prophesy” Werbach writes the poem she doesn’t want to write.  

“The poem I don’t want to write /would be about war and too many secrets/the birds wouldn’t chirp and there would be no sweet smell after the rain/education would be as lost as the minds of violent people/everything and everyone would be screaming in pain.”  

Again, using rhyme and meter, imagery and analogy, the poet brings us into a world even adults turn from. “This is also my worst fear/but yesterday, the grass told me/it was coming true.”  

I think it’s safe to assume that Ms. Werbach, under the tutelage of poet and writer Diane Frank, has had a master teacher with whom she feels safe to explore ‘her worst fears.’ What a gift for the young poet, and for the teacher to watch this poet bloom. 

Switching gears, Pearl immerses herself in the joyful: From “Secrets of Animals”  A dragonfly is a colorful, delicate buzz of a set of wings./A hummingbird is a moving rainbow of music.” 

 Joy and fear dominate the collection but a few poems take us into a deep inner world that is probing, wondering. “Hatred of Poems,” “Nightmare,” “The One and Only World” wonder at the mysteries of life; why we have nightmares, what lies beyond the physical world, what is love? This is the work of a mature poet, a writer open to whatever crosses her path.

 My favorites: “The Secret of Animals,” (“a wolf is a whip of grey smoke,”) “Six Word Stories,” “Arts Poetica,” “Everything is Connected, Yet Different,” and “Hatred of Poems.”

 A wonderful first outing by a budding young artist.

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Mary Barnet


Grace Cavalieri

Joan Gelfand

Janet Brennan