In the Shortness of My Days, by Lynda La Rocca

Review by Martha Quillen

Poetry – May 1994 – Colorado Central Magazine

In the Shortness of My Days
by Lynda La Rocca
Published in 1993
by New Spirit Press, Kew Gardens, N.Y.

In the Shortness of My Days is a non-author-subsidized work featuring 26 poems in a variety of forms, including sonnets, free verse, villanelles and blank verse.

A small volume, starkly typewritten, stapled together, and covered in heavy construction paper, La Rocca’s poetry deserves better — because La Rocca is a very competent poet.

La Rocca has some really poignant vignettes here. With seamless metaphors and strong imagery, the Automat describes a bird-like woman, eating rather gustily. Other poems tell of the holocaust, weary mothers, aging, lost love, and surviving.

Many of these poems have been published before, in literary journals and magazines. And they’re the kind of poems that get an A in any class — so aspiring poets should definitely read this volume.

But…

And I hope this isn’t a big but — because these are interesting poems that merit attention. But…

Teachers and literary journals look for excellent form and maturity when judging poetry. La Rocca’s poems have those qualities. But the general reader wants to share in the poet’s emotional viewpoint.

After reading her book, I felt La Rocca was holding something back — perhaps because literary journals don’t appreciate lyrical rhapsodizing or jocular jingles. Or at least I hope La Rocca was holding some of her feelings back — because the overall tone of this volume is excruciatingly sad.

Of the 26 poems she offers, 15 are sad, and 11 are more whimsical but touched by pathos. None is joyful or uplifting. The author writes of hope, but relentlessly pursues cheerless scenes. She writes compassionately, with genuine distress over other peoples’ pain. But a sense of hopelessness pervades the volume.

This criticism is absolutely unfair, of course, since La Rocca isn’t obligated to make anyone happy. But on the other hand, she’s a very effective writer who undoubtedly could — so it would be nice.

Let’s hope that her next book will provide a bit more cheer to balance the volume. But either way there should be many books to follow — because La Rocca writes exceptionally well.

— Martha Quillen

This book is available in Leadville at the Book Mine and the mining museum’s gift shop, or directly from La Rocca, P.O. Box 1285, Leadville CO 80461, for $3 plus 75 cents for handling.