Kohler’s first book, winner of the 2014 Utah State Poetry Society Publication Award, casts a compassionate eye on the landscapes of life.
In the first section, “Water Music,” the poet turns to the underground springs and sky-borne storms that make life go. “Images of mermaid summers drift by” as she remembers discovering a secret waterfall with her mother and sister. It’s a bit of magic, held in the prism of recollection, shining a sense of wholeness and thanksgiving onto the present moment. Dreams of a lake and snowmelt: in the “land of little rain,” these are the manifestations of water’s gift to the desert. One of the stronger landscape poems, “Burning Ditches,” draws on the power of biblical intonation and image: “O God, / singe my soul. Sear away / all that is useless and small. See / my gown of sack, / my face against the ground. / Shrive me. / Leave me pure / as a new leaf in the sun.” While several sonnets and other rhyming patterns appear, the lines read most expressively when they abandon the trappings of form. A middle section titled “Ricochet” mixes subjects of modern-day fairy tales, haunted atmospheres, travel, and meditations on love and time. “Memento Mori,” the final section, includes several lyrics on aging, memory loss, and death. Most readers will be moved by the familiarity of sad truths like the one encountered during an emotional visit: “Bereft / of memory, your gaze is like a stone. / I think there are worse things than dying young.” Allowing the word “Bereft” to vibrate on the end of a line says much about the totalizing break of a person from his or her world and loved ones. The poet’s ability to see beauty even in death ultimately affirms her world.
An impressive collection about the elemental materials that sustain us and the simple things that add up to a life of grace.