A review of Turn Up The Heat by Ruth Danon

Reviewed by Leslie Friedman

Turn Up The Heat
by Ruth Danon
Nirala Publications
May 2023, Paperback, 84 pages, ISBN-13: 978-8195781645

Turn Up The Heat, is Ruth Danon’s fourth book of poetry.  Her writing appears to be straight forward. The language can be ordinary. It is simple in the best possible meaning of that word. Then, one reads more slowly or reads a lot in one sitting and finds one’s self looking for that other poem, already read, but now it is necessary to read it again.

The reader stops in her mental tracks to realize the need to follow the trail that Danon has left. There may be a foot print. It might be what’s left of a camp fire. The reader can recognize a small pile of rocks; it is a message learned in early scouting. The poet created clues hidden in plain sight: “Now, it is up to the reader. No translation of literary talk is necessary. It is up front, ready to speak.”

Her subjects include hawks, household appliances, cats, induction vs. deduction, time. In “Small Town Zuihitsu (the aim is the illusion of spontaneity)” Danon begins with her night time agenda:“Usually, these days I write late at night. After dinner. After the cats are fed.” She waits until huaband and pets are ready to sleep. Later she observes the colors of dusk. She says she is “training herself to see.” She remembers her experiences teaching about “inductive and deductive logic.” She moves through several examples of what is or is not in versus de. She shifts to Giordano Bruno, the subject, I must say a subject, of Against Nostalgia. Bruno was an Italian scientist who accepted Galileo’s idea that the earth circles the sun rather than the religion authorized dogma that the Sun circles us. Bruno also foresaw that there were many other planets, each with its own sun. Bruno was burned at the stake in 1600. Danon’s attention to Bruno could be read as an interruption or as a well chosen moment to remember him before going on to deduction is a closed system and back to the changed color of the sky. The writing in this poem does not keep one focus. It seems that the mind travels by random subjects popping up. However, the solo ideas, comparisons, asides, explanations do relate and develop each other. They are all together in a personal world and a universal view. (“Small Town Zunitsu, 59-60) In the following interview, Danon addresses the question of whether the separate ideas and items find their places in the same poem by accident or plan.

In “Testament”, Danon knows who she is and what she needs. Outside, there are howling dogs, short days, “snow in gutters.” What she wants is “ice in water.” “Yes, I was wanting my own messy future. She has had pain in her past. She has taught, moved for a job, moved back; regardless of what is “normal” for others, she wants her self. (47)

Time is all around us and passing us or maybe we pass through it. InAgainst Theory,” and in other poems as well, ‘Time’ calls the step or maybe the tune, probably both. Danon is at a party. She thinks aboutthe current/preoccupation with ‘the/body.’ She wants to saythat any ‘body’ is particular,/not general.” At the partyall anyone could comment/on when speaking to me/was my hair, how it had/ turned platinum…” No one including herself “could have predicted it.” Danon observes that she has had injuries and scars that have made her different. And yet, she is still here. The situation isI’m getting old./I don’t like that part.”(“Against Theory”, 75)

Time is backstage, pulling all the strings. Hair color is obvious but the least of its power. It shadows much of the poetry in Turn Up The Heat.

Verdict”, the last poem in this remarkable treasure of a poetry book, asserts reality in each individual’s life. “You make do/with what you have and who/you are. The light outside/ the courtroom surprises you.” (78)