Stern’s (Dancing with the Moon and the Stars, 2016) debut poetry collection travels the natural landscape and the inner pathways of mood in quiet, reflective verse.
Comprised of several thematic sections, this set includes short poems that depend heavily on end rhymes for their sound and sense. But within this patterned structure, there’s room for revelation. The poet often proposes, for example, that insight springs from everyday moments; the danger lies in not recognizing them: “We often notice grandiose, showy, and noisy display, / And miss out on what the quiet and small have to say,” she writes in a lovely poem that features the “fireworks” of fireflies even as Fourth of July celebrations light up the larger sky. The poet highlights touches of beauty in the natural world, offering up pictures of quiet morning walks or the effects of moonlight on otherwise familiar fields: “wherever I walked, it was covered in cream.” Difficult as it is to arrive at fresh locutions for the four seasons, the “salt shaker top” of the red poppy catches the eye in a summer garden, as do the intimations of autumnal crows, gathered and noisy. Crows appear more than once in this book, as the poet seeks to understand the voice of nature, although she acknowledges that it’s beyond human translation. “Oh November, November, you have a lot to say” sums up the raucous bird voices without obliterating their mystery. Mostly, nature comforts and instructs in these poems, and even a crow’s behavior can teach us to be resourceful and watchful. Much is made of the similarity of the words “sun” and “son,” and many poems have an explicitly religious aspect of prayer: “Oh, Son of God, shine down on this earth,” the speaker pleads, eager for a lightening of earthly worries. As the poems draw on spiritual belief for sustenance, they articulate an optimistic perspective. No matter the dark spell or the rainstorm, light on the other side of it saves the speaker from uncertainty; she walks on, stronger for the test.
Gentle, soulful poems that shine a soft light on the human tendency toward wonder.