TEMPORARY HOMELANDS by Alison Hawthorne Deming

TEMPORARY HOMELANDS

KIRKUS REVIEW

 Elegant essays that seek to understand rather than define our relationships with nature and the places we call home, by an award- winning poet and director of the Poetry Center at the University of Arizona. In 12 essays that are set in four ``loved places''--Grand Manan, a remote Canadian island; the woods of her Connecticut childhood; southern Alaska; and the Arizona desert--Deming explores ``the quality of reflection that these places seem to induce.'' And as she evokes these disparate locales, she skillfully includes vivid descriptions of local flora and fauna, autobiographical details, observations on humans' relationship with nature, as well as meditations on life, death, and the writing of poems. Each place has been a way station in her life, most notably Grand Manan, which she first visited as a child when her frugal Yankee father, concluding that Nantucket was becoming too expensive, found in this remote island, reachable only by a decrepit sling-and-winch ferry, the happy mix of beauty, relaxation, and cheapness he sought. Deming, who has returned there every subsequent summer, observes that ``it takes years to properly visit [a] place...to know where the wild blueberries ripen earliest...to notice a silly gull.'' As she describes the woods of her childhood, she recalls the conflicting reactions of her Puritan ancestors (she is a descendant of Nathaniel Hawthorne's) to the wilderness that surrounded them, her father's painful last illness, and her experiences as a single mother homesteading in rural Vermont. The essays set in Arizona and Alaska are more conventional accounts of, respectively, lingering traces of early Native Americans like the Ansazi and an Alaskan program that rehabilitates injured bald eagles. But even these more familiar topics are infused with Deming's sagacious insights. Nature writing that refreshingly manages to educate, entertain, and move without once resorting to the bully pulpit.

Pub Date: Aug. 8th, 1994
ISBN: 1-56279-062-5
Page count: 214pp
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1st, 1994