by Ruth Thompson

Saddle Road Press, 2015. ISBN 978-0-991-39526-2.
Reviewed by Jazz Jaeschke
Posted on 07/08/2015
Review of the Month, July 2015

Poetry; Nonfiction: Life Lessons; Nonfiction: Nature/Place/Environment

Ruth Thompson's third volume of poetry looks at aging through lenses of nature—drought ravages, fragments of a decayed fish—gently showing the human mind dropping pieces, the human body changing shape. Taking shape often looks like losing shape; we are called here to trust the process of continual renewal, not knowing in the moment what shape is forming.

None of us comes
to destroy.
We come
to take shape.

The book's title poem, "Crazing," begins with the image of dry red clay crackling—apt description of aging effects on body, and on mental faculties. Aging is greeted with acceptance and even celebration. Thompson witnesses decline as a stage in transformation, paralleling plant life and human life.

Cracked creek-bed
         red clay crackling—
it's called crazing
         and I am crazing

The poem "White Queen" uses delightful imagery of an older woman showering silver hairpins as she moves through her confusion—choosing to see joy—choosing to see beauty—choosing to see possibilities. This leads to expansion beyond confusion.

The poem "Lunar Eclipse" is one of several that on first reading grip with imagery and a sense of relevance, albeit vague; then with subsequent reads, clarity shines through and we nod in recognition—forgiving ourselves over and over, just as the referenced river needs periodic dredging.

Thompson uses cultural, literary, and mythology anchors as jumping-off places—Oz, Mary, Mae West, Pythia (Greek priestess). Her poems are a vocabulary feast, full of terms to ponder for personal use. Many lines linger apart from the surrounding poem—haunting, such as: "dancing what she does not know to dance."

My recommendation? If you are beyond midlife or love someone who is, Thompson's third volume of poetry is a gift of nurture. Read these poems several times over; between lines compelling within themselves emerges a sense of inevitability we tend to turn away from. This book is a mirror reflecting beauty in aging, changing, becoming other-than-we-were. These thirty-five poems are a bouquet of wisdom.

Ruth Thompson's poems have won the New Millennium Writings, Harpur Palate, and other prizes. Her poems were choreographed and performed by the great Japanese dancer Shizuno Nasu. She is author of two prior books of poetry: Woman With Crows (2013) and Here Along Cazenovia Creek (2011).

Thompson holds a BA from Stanford and a doctorate in English from Indiana University. She has been an English professor, a librarian, a book editor, and a college dean. Currently, she is an editor at Saddle Road Press. She lives in Hilo, Hawai'i, where she teaches writing, meditation, and yoga. Visit her website.

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