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Not-for-Profit, Award-Winning Community News and Views for Windham County, Vermont • Since 2006
The Arts / Column

Lyrical doorways

In 'Daybook I,' Toni Ortner links inner, outer worlds

Daybook I may be found at ArtRAGEus1 and Everyone’s Books in Brattleboro. Published by Deerbrook Editions, it is also available at the publisher’s website, deerbrookeditions.com/daybook-i. Arlene Distler is a writer, artist, poet, and reviewer of art and books. Her Arts Notebook column appears occasionally in the Arts section of this newspaper.

BRATTLEBORO—The writing in Toni Ortner’s Daybook I is lyrical but rooted in present-tense observations deeply felt.

It consists of spiritual musings, political messages, musing about life. The writing is unselfconscious, but finely hewn.

Many of the passages, though written in paragraph form, read as satisfyingly evocative poetry:

The hot cup of coffee you brought to my bed/how you said the dead are always with us/if we listen to the voices in our heads/how in spite of the depth of the wound you never cried/the dark into which I fly/the light in your eyes.

At times it’s difficult to tell if a scenario is imagined or “real,” which for me enhanced engagement and enjoyment. After all, the imagined can seem to the imaginer more real than “reality”; dreams can take on lives of their own and affect our relationship with the embodied world.

Ortner seems to find expansion and reflection in the dream world, which adds a rich texture to her work.

There can also be deadpan humor when imagination mixes with the banal, as in recollecting the figure of Death from a dream: He stood there with a raincoat slung over his shoulder. He was chewing gum. It smelled like Dentine.

* * *

Based in Putney, Ortner is involved in the local literary scene and interviews writers about their lives and their work as host of the Write Action Radio Hour, a show broadcast on the last Sunday of each month on WVEW, a nonprofit community radio station in Brattleboro.

Ortner, who has served on the organization’s board of directors for 12 years, has had 26 books of poetry and prose poetry published by fine small presses. She is a columnist for the local website Vermont Views, where her recent work and reviews of her published books appear in her regular column, “Old Lady Blog.”

She brings it all together in Daybook — dream, thought, memory, and event creating a fluid landscape that captures well the interstices between a rich inner life and its sometimes difficult-to-navigate outer manifestations.

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Originally published in The Commons issue #522 (Wednesday, August 7, 2019). This story appeared on page B1.

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