Editors Hogan and Peterson (Intimate Nature, 1998) are back with women and plants, and the essays and poems they have brought together are dazzling.
We get Rigoberta Menchu writing about harvesting maize (even readers who hate old Rigoberta for making up all that stuff in her memoir should read this sketch). Isabel Allende explores the relationship between flowers and exile, and Kathleen Norris offers mystical musings on trees. Alice Walker’s poem, “The Nature of This Flower Is to Bloom,” takes the flower as a metaphor for the self. Annick Smith muses on huckleberries, and Elaine Scarry rhapsodizes about columbine. Although Scarry’s writing is often unintelligible, the snippet in “Sweet Breathing” is lovely: “When the columbine came up, it was as though I were the first person on earth to see this happen. Only common sense restrained me from carrying the news all over town.” The less well-known contributors provide some delights, as well. Mary Crow Dog explains how peyote unifies Indians from different tribes, and Naomi Shihab Nye pays tribute to her great-grandfather in a short essay about a soda fountain special he concocted (the “Mint Snowball”—made of mint leaves, sugar, and vanilla ice cream, and “tast[ing] like winter”). Linda Hogan gets from bamboo to God in 23 short lines of poetry. All that’s missing is Colette: a paragraph or two from her “Flowers and Fruit” would have been a nice touch.
The premise of the volume—that women everywhere and in every time have been intimately linked to plants in a sort of flora and femme sisterhood—may well turn the stomachs of women who came of age after the early 1970s. But the meat of it will captivate readers of all ages.