What the River Knows by Andrea Freeman

What the River Knows

Conversations with the Natural World
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Freeman’s (The Infinite Song, 2013) new poetry collection offers an unabashed paean to nature.

Perfect for a backyard hammock or quiet moment in the great outdoors, this book uses lyrical descriptions of creatures and landscapes to celebrate the mysteries of the wild world. Beauty is pre-eminent—a virtue—and omnipresent; readers just have to know where to look and when to be watchful. “Today, it was the fish who were my teachers,” begins the poem “Rainbow Trout.” Under the rough surface “is a place of refuge.” The poet believes in the totemlike aspects of animals and their ability to carry messages. Her portrait of the pileated woodpecker working a dead trunk for food, for example, sees the bird as a harbinger of optimism in a challenging world. After he “chiseled the tree from different angles,” a lesson emerged: “See how it’s possible / to find nourishment / in what is broken, / beauty in decay?” This sort of reverence for nature’s teachings fills the book to bursting. Even the growth pattern of a wild geranium gives form to worshipful attention: “And so I point my storksbill seedpod / to the breathing hole of sky, / and uncoil my seed dreams / into the honey nectar of the heart, / to take root and flower.” Scientific knowledge informs the poems in the specific habitats and animal behaviors noted, but cultural legends (Egypt’s “special feather of Maat” that determines one’s afterlife) and mystical moments (“Blow the wind of your soul’s knowing into place”) also matter. Anthropomorphosis represents yet another way of knowing. In “Red-tailed Hawk Messenger,” for instance, a hawk’s cry takes phonetic shape, “Kree-eee-ar!” / Kree-eee-ar!” but also an English translation: “ ‘Speak up for yourself! / Speak up for what is true!’ / he cried, / his voice filling the hollows.” However readers find it, a sense of awe promises the best connection to the larger universe: “There are no doors to a meadow / but one crosses a threshold to enter.”

For its openness to natural wonders, this poetry volume humbles and delights.

Pub Date: March 1st, 2016
ISBN: 978-0-9890897-1-5
Page count: 110pp
Publisher: Halcyon Wind Press
Program: Kirkus Indie
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15th, 2016


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