9/12/2023 | By Annie Tobey

A review of “Twinings: Poems at Eighty” by Julie Fritz (Brandylane Publishers, 2023).

“My life was not quite a braid. It was not that well thought out. In a way, I just fell through the days spinning, twining, like honeysuckle.” Thus poet and octogenarian Julie Fritz begins her book, “Twinings: Poems at Eighty.” The opening paragraph reflects her life and the entwined takeaways from her book.

First, her poems are elegant but simple, not overly esoteric. Even a casual reader, one who may prefer straightforward prose, can lift meaning from her lilting verse. Her style is soft, like a lullaby for adults.

Next, readers who share with Fritz the experience of decades can find themselves carried back to youth – and into adulthood and old age – through her gentle reminiscences, light humor, and hints of hard times.

The book’s first grouping of poems, “Memories,” begins with “Lunch Bell”:

Mother made me
go outside every morning
if it was above forty-five,
and not come back
until the lunch bell.
I would sit on the terrace
and decide the direction
of the day: south …

She moves to the second grouping, “Moments,” where her poetic visits with nature show her appreciation for flora and fauna. The natural experiences entwine with insights. As in “The Shedding”:

honeysuckle flowers, from Anita Patterson Peppers. For review of "Twinings: Poems at Eighty"
Under the honeysuckle
on sharp curled leaves
I rub back and forth
to slough the skin
that once fit smoothly …
Once I had gold flecks
and was desired
in inappropriate ways.
Now bones poke, breasts sag,
and I only hope
new scales
hurry to hide
my gathering
But no, winter comes,
a shortness of breath, …
and I’m beginning to think
no new skin is going
to bring back summer
or honeysuckle.

In the book’s third grouping of poems, “Musings,” Fritz shares “the wisdom age gifts us.” In an era where ageism and the worship of youth are the norm, the reminder of the benfits of experience provides comfort.

In a final gift from the book, the simplicity of Fritz’s works can remind a reader that we can all benefit from writing our own poetry. Few of us will create poems worthy of publication, as Fritz’s are, but hers can serve as a template, an inspiration. The act of finding our own voices, pulling up our own memories, can bring joy and, when needed, healing.

As the title poem, “Twinings,” says,

Sometimes just that
little wisp of honeysuckle,
loaded with nectar,
shooting out the scent of memory
while reaching to twine
with a sister vine,
is the only joy
we are going to get this day.
But we are going to get that.

A copy of Julie Fritz’s “Twinings” offers just such a joy.

Annie Tobey

Annie Tobey has been a professional writer and editor for more than 30 years. As editor of BOOMER magazine, she explored a diversity of topics of particular interest to adult children of seniors. When she’s not writing, she can be found running the trails or enjoying a beer with friends.

Annie Tobey