Elizabeth Robinson
Richmond, CA: Omnidawn Press, 2001

One meaning of Harrow is to break up the clods of soil and weeds, another refers to Jesus’ descent into hell to free the righteous. The latter doesn’t quite make sense in this book but the idea of breaking apart certainly does.
Robinson struggles with the orderliness of faith. In the poem "plaid" the attraction of this order and clarity is revealed. The desire to have faith be grid like, "arteries translucent/ with orderly movement.// To be faithful, properly,/is to be transparent via this."
But this cannot be and it is in this longing for clarity that the meditation in this book begins. Robinson is at once an outsider to a particular faith and an insider to faith on a more abstract and general level. There is much of H.D.’s deep connection to mystery in these passages which I admire for its absolute foreigness. The outsider though is decidedly feminine. It is the feminine principle, which threatens a possible upheaval of the plaid like by-ways, and moves itself into the foreground calling for attention to itself as a keystone of faith. "Saw her who had affronted/The mystery" she will be heretic always by her very nature. To take issue with Western Christianity from a feminist perspective is easy to do. You only need to take a glance at the history and point out the political events and machinations that have so consistently screwed women. It is much harder to take on Otherness at a spiritual level and examine in terms of belief, what misses, what is heretic, what is forlorn and this is the work that Elizabeth Robinson takes on.

--- Sarah Anne Cox