In this meditative collection, Wakefield’s myriad descriptions of nature are lovely and apt: “the garden spiders in their one acre meadow / spinning enough silk in a week to circle the moon.” One senses a real and deep connection between the poet and the rural settings she describes, but the invisible world holds sway as well. There are many allusions to biblical personalities and themes—the Virgin Mary, the baptism of Jesus—and nature becomes infused with a religious grandeur, although one in which ultimately the Christian god does not seem to figure prominently. What emerges is a kind of animist sensibility, where the natural generally trumps the man-made (including, it would seem, “organized” religion—one would sooner call Wakefield’s poems spiritual than religious). But the poems suffer from a uniformity of tone, with overly similar turns of phrase recurring throughout. Wakefield is too quick to assume the role of self-conscious poet, as evinced by such titles as “Trying My Lines Aloud on the Back Porch” and “Listening to John Ashbery.” The revelations in such poems tend to be, not surprisingly, easy and sentimental: the former finds a deer eavesdropping, the latter veers off into a reminiscence of her father. When the author turns her attention to the aural world, often the sounds of blown leaves, flowing rivers, and singing insects morph into such mantras as “Begin Begin Begin.” Elsewhere she hears “the whole woods clamoring, a ceaseless drumming / that said, So much singing cannot be shut out.” Perhaps, but it is a device that wears out quickly. The ekphrastics behave exactly like scores of others in polite literary journals, and there are enough linden trees scattered about to make a forest.
Well-intentioned and often touching, but monotonous and predictable as a whole.