The Last White Ruby

The Vanishing Polar Circles

Poetry - General
58 Pages
Reviewed on 08/16/2015
Buy on Amazon

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    Book Review

Reviewed by Jack Magnus for Readers' Favorite

The Last White Ruby: The Vanishing Polar Circles is a collection of poetry written by Ronnie J. Smith. Smith is a professional aviator whose flights took him over both poles, and he was also the in-theater Commander of Operation Deep Freeze which enabled him to spend 2005-2008 in Antarctica. His poetry shows the deep inspiration he gathered from his flights over, and time spent, on the ground in the polar regions. Many of his works are free verse and rely upon the pairings of sound and sense to impart their own internal rhythms. In Iluliaq, the sound and sense pairings work with the repeated refrains to heighten the tension and reflect the subject of the waves lapping on the ice.

Smith’s work is rich in imagery that builds the mood at the same time that it creates endless vistas in the reader’s mind’s eye. He frequently uses alliteration and the repetition of vowel sounds to marry the form of his words to the sense of his subject. In The Only Road, the lines: “Star-eyed falcons stun/ Those frozen seas” illustrate his use of alliteration in a palindromic form that’s evocative, pleasing to the ear and dramatic. At times, Smith’s use of refrains creates a chant-like rhythm; a music that seems to stamp and roll and immerse itself into the reader’s consciousness.

I must confess that I have long been enraptured by the polar regions, and have spent untold hours enchanted by the tales of those explorers Smith memorializes in his poetry, and awed by the photographic images of those icy wastes and the harsh grandeur. And while I’ve never been more than an armchair adventurer in those polar climes, I felt, reading The Last White Ruby, as though I were in the presence of a kindred spirit, albeit one whose adventures are indeed first-hand.

Smith’s words capture the magic, mystery and majesty of his subject, and I frequently found myself reading the same lines aloud over and over, letting my tongue and mind taste the meeting of form and sense. His images are crystalline and flowing all at once, and his style is reminiscent of that of the Victorian poet, Alfred Lord Tennyson, and Edgar Allan Poe. I was drawn to Smith’s tributes to Amundsen, Shackleton and Hillary, and bemoaned anew the plight of Scott’s ponies in Sonnet to the South Pole Ponies.

The Last White Ruby is the real deal. It’s a collection of marvelous poetry that spoke so directly to me that I’m still seeing vast white canyons, summer dusks flowing into dawn and the ineffable sadness of what has been irretrievably lost. The Last White Ruby: The Vanishing Polar Circles is most highly recommended.

Mamta Madhavan

The Last White Ruby: The Vanishing Polar Circles by Ronnie Smith, as the title suggests, revolves around the author's experiences of working in the polar region. The poet takes readers on a journey of his emotions and expressions of living there, the wildlife in that region and how one has to learn to adjust and adapt to survive in those cold surroundings with the help of his pen. The poems can be given different interpretations and they take readers on an adventurous, mystical journey which will make them contemplate life, nature and the universe. The entire collection is deep and and the author also manages to capture the raw and stark beauty of the region beautifully.

The imagery is wonderful and the expressions are aesthetic, giving a strong visual impact to readers. The poet weaves emotions through the elements of nature, giving a surreal aura to his writing. Readers go through myriad emotions that span the land, ice, sky, wildlife and global warming as they turn the pages. I found all the poems appealing as the theme of the polar region itself is magical and dreamy. Readers get to know more about the region. The poet's words will make readers think about the scope of humanity and how we destroy the air, water and soil. All the poems border more on the minimalist style but leave a lasting impression in the minds of readers. The poet's words are universal and expose the truth of living and the universe.

Tracy Slowiak

Ahhh, poetry. The work of writing that’s so beautiful, so ethereal, so transcendental that it’s often hard to truly put it into words or to review it. It’s the only genre of literature, in this reviewer’s mind, that is so lovely and unique, so personal, that each individual reader can get their own, very personal message from it. Such is certainly the case in The Last White Ruby: The Vanishing Polar Circles by poet Ronnie Smith. In this, his most recent collection, Mr. Smith focuses his poems around the central theme of his time spent working in a polar environment. Forty-eight works of poetic art lead us through our exploration of this volume, and the adventure is certainly time well spent.

Ronnie Smith’s work is beautiful, spare, and yes, sometimes harsh, just like the polar environment it evokes. It’s difficult for me to name a favorite amongst the gorgeous lines in The Last White Ruby, but if I had to, I would choose one from the poem entitled “Snowfields.”
moving into the midst
of snow,
whiteflakes list,
let you become the sky,
where you find life
is wonder wide open…

The purity of this sentiment is as white as the snowfields we can imagine Mr. Smith encountered during his time in Antarctica, and just broke my heart open with emotion. I had not read any of this poet’s work before, but I will certainly seek it out now. I, for one, cannot wait to see what Mr. Smith's next work will bring us.

Gisela Dixon

The Last White Ruby: The Vanishing Polar Circles by Ronnie Smith is a short and sweet poetry book. The theme of The Last White Ruby is, as the name implies, polar circles and the regions near it. So, The Last White Ruby covers ice-capped regions such as the Arctic, Antarctica, and Greenland. Each of the poems in this collection talks about the beauty, stillness, the pristine environment, and the uniqueness of these regions. These poems are not only meant to evoke the beauty and solitude of these regions, but also the harshness and extremes that they are known for, and the ability of creatures to still survive and thrive there. In addition to this, poems such as these also spread awareness about global warming and its effects, and the knowledge that these regions may not last forever if steps are not taken to preserve them.

The Last White Ruby: The Vanishing Polar Circles by Ronnie Smith is a wonderful collection of poems that I thoroughly enjoyed reading. Having been to the Arctic circle myself, I could totally imagine being back there. The poems not only paint a vivid picture of these stark landscapes, but also made me want to experience the places and see them for myself. The writing is lyrical and definitely evokes the emotions that one expects from good poetry. The Last White Ruby: The Vanishing Polar Circles by Ronnie Smith is a book that I would unhesitatingly recommend to everyone.

Julia Schemmer

Although poetry has a track record for being full of imagery that has the power to take you to faraway places, it's often a manifestation of the moments that inspired the poet themselves. In The Last White Ruby, poet and former U.S. Air Force pilot Ronnie Smith dictates his experiences of flying and working in the polar environment, one of the most environmentally hostile areas in the world. However, whatever danger or intimidation that this area could be associated with causing is immediately diminished by the extreme beauty of Smith's words. The pilot has a unique way of not only humanizing the situation, but putting readers right into the icy wonders of the polar region, and transporting them to a land full of natural beauty and intrigue. This book will challenge what you view as poetry, and remind you of the divine power that our words are endowed with.

When I first saw this book, I immediately thought it would be a book of poetry detailing the fantasy and romanticism associated with the polar region, but I was pleasantly surprised to see my initial judgments overturned. Yes, author Ronnie Smith does explain the beauty of the polar world, but even more so, the reflections are a direct result of the area he came to know and love through his work. Reading this book left me completely inspired, breathless by his natural talent to bring words and people together harmoniously. Be reminded of the beauty of the world we're living in by picking up The Last White Ruby. You truly won't be sorry when you do.