I always review a book of poetry with some anxiety and exhilaration; anxiety because poetry is in the eye (ear/mind) of the beholder, and exhilaration because poetry is in the eye (ear/mind) of the beholder. I’d argue that I don’t know what “good” poetry is, only that if I like it, I like it. That’s the anxiety part, the sense of feeling like an impostor for reviewing work for which I have no expertise. But what I find exhilarating about reviewing poetry is that sense of discovery as I consider the language of the poems, the images and the feelings provoked by the poems.
And so … I approach my review of Luanne Castle’s latest poetry collection–Rooted and Winged–with both anxiety and exhilaration. Let’s put aside my anxiety … no, wait … let me address my anxiety briefly because it is important.
For a long time after I received this lovely volume, I couldn’t read past the first poem, “Tuesday Afternoon at Magpie’s Grill.” It was the anxiety of self-recognition. This poem immediately stirred memories of myself at various stages of life, scribbling away in a notebook in a feverish worry that, without a record, I wouldn’t exist.
Without a record, will I hear the ice crashing
into the sink, the Dodger talk at the bar
at the end of the room under the Miller Lite
neon confident and beckoning?
Of both of us, our mothers would say, “In one ear and out the other.” Yet, with Castle, the words flow in and swirl around and busy her mind and set up shop, with no intentions of leaving her head anytime soon. Further into the poem, she writes, “I will never / capture the ease of wind-filled wings.” Oh, how wrong she is there. Although this is the first poem in the book, I’m already lifted into flight.
Now for my exhilaration in reading these poems.
How can a poem do so many things:
–“Tuesday Afternoon at Magpie’s Grill”
How can poems lift one into flight but also root one into the earth? Castle’s poetry does just that. She intersperses poems of her familial history and memories …
Even before us, they plowed fields
and sewed leather onto soles, their lives
spun from the loom beneath them.
… with poems of furred and feathered visitors to her home, where she is rooted …
But I remember hawks heavy-winged above me,
the gliding and patterns and power in the sky.
To catch her without flight is the catastrophe.
I soar as I read these poems, yet I also feel grounded, recognizing that while I am of the earth, I’d give a lot to fly with the birds.
We could puff into the blue like clouds.
Why hasn’t one of us learned to fly?
What keeps us pointed downward?
And yet …
Even birds and bats fall to earth when
–“The Purpose of Earth”
Eventually, we are all–furred, feathered, and naked creatures–part of the earth. We are all rooted, even if some of us are winged and can soar. And with these poems by Luanne Castle, we can all enjoy “the ease of wind-filled wings.”
To read more reviews of Rooted and Winged and to learn more about Luanne Castle, please click on this link: The Rooted and Winged Blog Tour Links.