For the Roses:
Poems Inspired by Joni Mitchell 

by Lyn Lifshin

Available at www.Amazon.com
84 pages

$15.00 (perfect paperback)
Publisher: March Street Press (6-17-2012)
ISBN-10: 1596611723
ISBN-13: 978-1596611726

For the Roses by Lyn Lifshin

Sample Poems


Sometimes I think of her
as a wild filly, hardly
touching down in prairie
grass, Saskatewan. Or a
sea nymph, her gaze
glued to the deepest
emerald wave, a Silkie
luring men she can't stay
with long. There she
is, on a seaweed jeweled
rock, her songs, ribbons
of melancholy lassoing you,
pulling on your heart.
Some say Bessie Smith
left even or especially good
men to have something
to make her songs
burn the hottest blues. I
think of Joni knowing
what can't stay, what is so
broken it catches the
light like torn bottles
the ocean's turned
to sea glass jewels, that
what dissolves
behind you in the rear
view mirror haunts,
knife- like as her trees,
slashes of wild paint
shivering in a naked row,
such exquisite beauty
in wreckage


I wore Tea Rose and
often a black rose
in my hair that summer,
symbol of freedom,
a nod to the White Rose,
the German girl who
protesting the Nazis,
gave her skin, her lips
and heart, her life. I was
flying coast to coast
to read, coming back
to an alone house. Named
for the rose, for an aunt
adventurous as Joni,
who danced in flames,
I dressed in rose. Deborah
of the roses. The stories
about her whispered by
grown ups behind stained
glass doors. Who wouldn't
expect roses in my poems?
White rose, Bulgarian
rose. When I walked thru
airports with a white
rose from Allen Ginsberg
everyone whispered, "roses."
But it was the rose scent
perfuming the air from my
body. You could almost
hear, as even now I can
almost feel the one who
touched me on that
coast, what Joni heard
in the wind, the end
of, the chilly now,
the last face to face


When I see hers
sprawled across the album,
explosive brush strokes,
guava, blood and green,
her wild petals not
connected to any
stem. I can't help but
feel those slashes
of light in her poems,
how sometimes it seems
her words could be mine.
I've heard those lost
lovers in the wind. Maybe
I heard then last night
when I couldn't
sleep. I think of the
photograph of her with
a rose in her hair. She
could be my sister those
nights when I am the
rose I was named
for, Raisel Devora.
And why wouldn't some
one pierced by words,
turn addict for a
sent rare as Tea Rose
or Rashimi rose incense.
Those lovers, like
applause: I found them
addictive too. I think of her
criss- crossing the country,
a cigarette dangling,
leather and suede,
tawny earth colors
(you could find in my
closet), eyes few would ever
be as blue as. Aching for
something you can't
still hold and knowing
from that raw wound, pain
and piercing beauty explodes



with her dulcimers, her
songs. Writing at night.
Once she could write
anywhere. Once she
was invisible as blown
seeds. Once she could
write on sand, under
cypress. Oncewno one
cared "who's that
about." Sometimes
she'd write something
down and think "Oh
I like how the words
sound but it doesn't
say anything." Some
times friends come and
listen to her sing. If
they love her songs, it's
better than drugs
or gin. Sometimes she
felt like a hippie goddess
rocking rhythms while
they're waiting
with candles in the
window. Sometimes
what she's feeling
is not anything a poet
can sing



I think of her
wanting to retreat,
stop touring. I
imagine her exhaustion,
think of Edna St
Vincent Millay feeling
like a hooker
going to read. Who
doesn't get sick of
tour? "Which is the real"
they howl? What's
true? Who's the
man in the lyrics and
did he do what
you wrote he did?  I
think of 30 men sure they
were the one in a
certain poem about none
of them. Who would
not want to escape, have
someone wake you
up with sweets
and roses, take you
out in the rain
in a yellow slicker? Who
doesn't want cats
running when you turn
the key? A sun in
the painting
that smiles?



5.0 out of 5 stars For The Roses, by Lyn Lifshin, reviewed by Christina Zawadiwsky, July 21, 2012
Christina Zawadiwsky 
This review is from: For the Roses (Perfect Paperback)
For The Roses by Lyn Lifshin

Two independent and poetic women, both seeking completion with the Other (a male partner who doesn't run away in a rush of wanderlust) in the velvet-and-lace 60s and 70s are Joni Mitchell and Lyn Lifshin, the topic of Lyn Lifshin's new book of poetry, For The Roses. Relating to Joni Mitchell's fame, her life as a painter (Lifshin also began as an artist), her many treks on the road to and from performances and the lyrics of the album For The Roses, Lyn Lifshin feels that Joni Mitchell is both her spiritual sister and her Doppelganger. The hope and exuberance of youth combined with natural talent and sadness are explored, and in the end, Lifshin returns to her own identity for the answers to life, leaving behind "the/ones that after/years show up as/we are about/to go on stage" (from the poem Help Me).

This review is from: For the Roses (Perfect Paperback)
This book reminds me of some of Lyn’s first works. Beautifully written, painting a picture of the place where poetry is suposed to take you.

(Perfect Paperback - June 17, 2012)



Out of an abundance of curiosity, admiration, and of course, poetry envy, I’ve always wondered how Lyn Lifshin, after decades of prolific writing and over 100 books, continues to do what Ezra Pound implored poets to do:  MAKE IT NEW.  Like a crafty and creative alchemist of language, Lifshin seems to pull new images out of a magic bag of tricks which keeps replenishing itself, and just as Jesus turned water into wine, Lifshin turns even the most benign word combos into a kind of sensual gold.  Always delving into new topics that have captivated her, whether it be horses, ballroom dance, poetry, love, or all of the above, her scores of readers can rest assured that whatever flows from her gifted pen will glow like precious gems against black satin sheets.

Following hot on the leather-booted heels of her last masterpiece All the Poets Who Have Touched Me, Lifshin turns her attention to a singer she fancies her mirror image, Joni Mitchell, a delightful irony in and of itself for a poet who has herself garnered so many fans that she is used to being on the receiving end of this kind of rabid devotion.  Starting with the physical similarity of their long blonde hair and wild-living-but-sensitive tendencies (and, I might add, their lovely, angular faces). Lifshin channels Joni — lives her, breathes her — in ways that are so finely observed that even if you were not heretofore familiar with Joni’s work, after reading these poems, you will find yourself knee-deep in Lyn’s obsession.  But this is no idle idol-worship.  We are treated to a road trip with Lyn and Joni and our sixties’ sensibilities, all contained within a graceful homage to poetry and song.   

Sometimes what she’s

is not anything a poet
can sing

Perhaps this is true, but as nearly as possible, Lifshin magnificently captures Joni Mitchell’s life — and lifeblood — so that it deeply, and often painfully, connects to her own.

The title of this book, “For the Roses,” is identical to the name of Joni’s song, as many of the titles here are.  In fact, as the poet points out in her introduction, roses have always played a significant role in her poems, and here, they appear in every blooming incarnation:  the clothes she dons, the perfume she wears, the incense she burns, and even her Hebrew name.  And, yes, sometimes a “rose is just a rose,” like the cherished one she (allegedly) once received from Allen Ginsberg. 
Lifshin aficionados will recognize, with delight, the skinny-poem format which glides energetically and breathlessly down the page in elegant and artful fashion.  But couched within this lightness of form, Lyn taps into something more vital.  Lifshin’s roses are a symbol of the raw heartbreak and lament that have always been the trademarks of both the minstrel (Joni) and the poet (Lyn), even a sort of (at least metaphorical) violence that underlies these brief but urgent cries.  Lyn Lifshin’s poems seem even more laced with longing when superimposed against the backdrop of Joni Mitchell’s mournful tunes.


            thing wild and
            gentle that should
            go running wild is
            kenneled in me


Someone should remind Lyn that nothing in her has ever been “kenneled” or restrained — in her poems, at least, she has always been a free-spirited filly, poetry’s Lady Godiva, riding naked and untamed, yet still somehow virginal, throughout the town. 

In “For the Roses,” each poem is a morsel, a snapshot, a vignette rendered in Lifshin’s silver-plated voice.  There are flights of fancy galore, but no fluff here — these poems are rock-hard like the diamonds she is fond of conjuring, while her fabrics, soft and demure, still bleed through in colors with which we are all too familiar.
So I suggest you cancel all your appointments for the next week or so, make a pot of chamomile tea, and curl up under a down comforter with this lyrical-odyssey-of-a-latest-Lifshin book because, no matter how many of her poems you've already read, like comfort food, you still want to gorge yourself on more. 
In honoring Joni Mitchell, Lyn Lifshin does a masterful job of re-paving the parking lot  — and bringing back Paradise.

Cindy Hochman First Literary Review

some of these poems appear, in different versions, in Gathered Light: the Poetry of Joni Mitchell's Songs edited by Lisa Sornberger and John Sornberger