ON A WIRE by Diane Elizabeth Butler

ON A WIRE

KIRKUS REVIEW

This slim volume of poems explores the writer’s experience, using images and themes from nature.

Like the hawk on a wire in the titular poem, novice author Butler closely observes the natural world around her, often relating it to her own life. Having lived on farms in California and Oregon, as well as aboard a sailboat, Butler can draw upon an array of experiences. Several poems relate to cultivating gardens. “On My Farm” describes a tractor going through rows of lettuce, “the earth incumbent with nutrient.” In “Drops of Red,” one of the book’s more successful poems, the poet’s father is “driving the dusty green combine….The dust smells of toasted flour.” Such images are specific yet surprising: “incumbent” feels just right for moist, rich earth; “toasted” conveys the smell and feel of a hot day spent harvesting wheat. In “Traffic Dancing,” one of the few urban poems, Butler succinctly conjures the choreography of traffic: “a cotillion reel at an intersection.” In other poems, however, Butler’s metaphors are weak. The force of a metaphor comes from the surprising magnetism between two dissimilar things, but in “Honey Bees,” she compares clover honey to golden molasses—similar commodities—and then to tupelo honey, another comparable product. In “Bootjack,” she describes her favorite riding boots: “those boots are like / a second skin / protecting tender toes.” But there’s no “like” about it. Several poems have an intriguing sense of mystery, especially “Forgotten Moon,” in which an old couple sits in silence in a mountaintop house: “There is a footprint in that bog of red flowered thorns. / He’s forgotten her name but it will come / when the golden boat sinks into the sea.” The ghostly footprint leaves a haunting impression. Other poems are more puzzling than mysterious. “Traversing the Peninsula,” for instance, describes walking across the sand, where “The cold wrapped my ankles…anchoring me there.” How can she be traveling yet anchored? At times, Butler doesn’t seem to mind her words closely enough. The unsuccessful poems here simply present an image or situation, without closing the loop—there’s no tock for the opening tick. “Windswept,” for example, presents a rising autumn moon and the twilight air, then ends; “A Walk at Sunrise” describes just that, no more. Poems like these seem content at being pretty postcards.

Slight poems with flashes of splendor but lacking real power.

Pub Date: April 3rd, 2012
ISBN: 978-1434914484
Page count: 46pp
Publisher: Dorrance Publishing Co.
Program: Kirkus Indie
Review Posted Online:




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