A poetry collection celebrates the natural world and God’s promises.
Lewis (The Magnanimous Gift, 2017), a former social worker, lives in the Arkansas Ozarks foothills. Most of the 54 unrhymed poems in the book are set out in stanzas; a few are in prose paragraphs. The strongest verse describes wildlife she has observed or learned about. In “Squirrels,” she marvels at these “furry acrobats…high in the crow’s nest of their tree ships,” while “Indigo Bunting” likens the bird to a “tiny scrap of sky.” The stanzas of “Zebra” cleverly zigzag across the page to form a Z-like shape. Lewis has a keen eye for animal behavior and makes it sound alternately majestic and endearing. She describes a raccoon enjoying a sprinkler (“The raccoon was moving his paws / through the strands of water / like a harpist plucking the strings of a harp”) and a beaver “eating the bark off a branch he held in his paws, / rotating it the way we eat corn-on-the-cob.” Other subjects include polar bears, penguins, and the Galápagos iguanas. Sometimes the creatures Lewis profiles remind her of Christian beliefs. For instance, in the title poem the narrator realizes that, just as one can count on hummingbirds turning up every April, one can trust that Jesus will come back. Elsewhere, the duck-billed platypus serves as a simple sign of God’s sense of humor. Footnotes are given whenever the Bible is referenced. This goes rather overboard in “Before the Cradle to Beyond the Grave,” a long paragraph composed entirely of Scriptural affirmations. The issues-based poems, such as ones decrying drugs (“Illegal drug usage is one of the scourges / of our generation”) and especially abortion (“since Roe vs. Wade…there have been…sixty million abortions—roughly ten times the number of people / slaughtered in the Holocaust”), feel out of place in a largely upbeat collection and risk alienating readers of a different mindset. By contrast, “Something Amazing,” one of the overall standouts, is based on free association about the warmth and deliciousness of a harvest.
Cheerful and spiritually resonant nature poems.