Reflections on Mountaineering: A Journey Through Life as Experienced in the Mountains
by Alan V. Goldman
Outskirts Press

"For to climb upon a mountains’s flanks is but an active form of meditation
that earns us nothing to our material gain,
Yet adds immeasurably to the memories in our brains"

In his poetry, a retired lawyer reflects on his years of mountaineering. The poems muse on climbing's dangers, its literal and figurative attractions, and the existential questions it poses. Cerebral in tone, the pieces quote literature (sometimes in French) and rhetorical terms. With titles such as "Idealized Perfection," "The Power of Now," and "On Being and Intent," the poems' content also reflects a heady fixation with man's purpose. They inquire whether enduring the ordeals of climbing, like avalanches and extreme wind and cold, are exercises in futility or lead to enlightenment. Featuring both failures (times Goldman turned back from challenges) and successes (like climbing alongside professionals), the opportunity to ask such questions takes precedence over any single answer. The poems' focus on life-or-death situations and profound thought makes for a harrowing as well as probing read.

The author's headspace while climbing is emphasized over outward landscapes. However, awe-inspiring and threatening conditions at specific locations—Twining Peak, Kilimanjaro, and Mt. Bierstadt, among others—are described. This expanded edition of the book includes more recent and more intimate poems dealing with despair and old age. They round out the grandiosity of climbing in their earthy and universal concerns.

Although many of the selections are dense and free form, some rhyme and exhibit a childlike wonder. Some of these shorter poems begin like something penned by Robert Blake, such as "Mountain, Mountain," addressing the mountain as a dialogue partner or a deity to whom Goldman prays. These tender poems speak most directly and are the most accessible in the collection. The whole work edifies in its celebration of a timeless meeting between nature's awesome power and brave souls willing to face their limits.

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