Friday, September 2, 2016

Book Review of The Wilderness Within by Barbara Spring

    From The Lethbridge Insider: Editors Pick
Finding Transcendence In Nature
Canada  (11/10/2003)        On the cover of Barbara Spring’s first poetry
collection, the Wilderness Within, a polar bear saunters across the ice.
Given the rugged-sounding title and the harsh arctic climate depicted in the
photo, it is obvious that the writer has a love of nature. But why these
particular images I asked. Perhaps she’s a person intrigued by nature’s more
sublime qualities, the awe-inspiring grandeur of mountains and icebergs for
instance. Does she wander the countryside in a dress of Prussian blue, like
Dorothy Wordsworth, gathering her poems from nature?
Spring is a keen observer, and she does wander in the footsteps of the
Romantic poets: Like them she seeks to find a revelation of Truth in nature,
a point of universal connection. In the poem On Puget Sound she finds this
on the beach: Underneath my feet/tangled tree roots feel their way/ . . .
The roots know I am here-/They send the message of me through networks-/ . .
. And the gray whale I greeted in Baja last winter/also knows I am here. . .
In Dark Energy, her belief in oneness and regeneration is clear: The dark
universe exhales-/ . . . In our hearts we know/there breathes a oneness:/the
earth, the stars, beyond./Those we love we will see again.

>From the freshwater seas of the Great Lakes near her home on Lake Michigan,
to Puget Sound, the Galapagos, Africa, Mexico and the Midwest prairie, she
feels these eternal rhythms of nature, in her ears, bones and soul. For her,
ideas spring forth and are often expressed in delicate phrasings: There’s an
ice bear with hollow hair; the velvet buckhorns of a deer; frozen frog eggs
as stiff as little glass jugs; wood frogs dappled in sleek green suits; the
liquid halls of an ocean; and Fishbone lattices. A number of her
alliterations are also rather good: in the forest a fawn stands for the
first time; The Day Lily comes/carrying its candelabra/of burning candles;
Canadian Geese Fat with summer’s grasses/Stuffed with Saskatchewan Corn.

While the transcendence of nature is the predominate theme in this
collection, not all of Spring’s poems are solemn. In fact, many are playful.
In Whale Songs she communes with humpbacks and imagines them asking in
puzzlement, “Woman, why don’t you sing to me?” Two Horses has a similar
mood. When she tells them how handsome they are the old one strikes a show
horse pose/even though he is bony, spavined, swaybacked. The young one looks
at her with the eyes of a child/on the first day of school.

Another fun aspect of Spring’s book is the inclusion of shape poems, where
the text is formed like its subject. My Kites is quite entertaining as is My
Strawberries. Other times her poems read like colourful social commentary.
Birth Control for the Earth Mother Rampant Upon a Fruitful World is a good
example of this. It’s about a painter-woman whose creativity flows from her
femaleness; a goddess on the birth control pill who remains fecundate, by
giving birth to canvas.

In her work Spring draws from many traditions, including Christianity and
Darwinism. Jonah’s Journey is of course a retelling of the parable, Jonah
and the Whale. In a poem called Praise, where a reader would expect
religious underpinnings however, the tone is instead deliberately secular in
its celebration of universal and individual contrasts. After travelling to
the Galapagos Islands, Spring writes an essay that she dedicates to Charles
Darwin, a tribute to the evolution of species. This experience thus becomes
another testament to the eternal and universal connection she believes all
life energy has.

The Wilderness Within is available at, bn.,com, and many other online and brick and mortar stores such as The Bookman in Grand Haven, MI, Schuler Books and Music etc.

My Amazon Page  click the link for my books etc.

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