cover image My Wilderness

My Wilderness

Maxine Scates. Univ. of Pittsburgh, $18 trade paper (112p) ISBN 978-0-8229-6663-0

The atmospheric fourth collection from Scates (Undone) draws inspiration from the hillsides of Oregon, where the poet has lived since the mid-1970s. Many of these poems explore mortality (her partner’s illness, and the death of a friend and mother) while considering the larger natural world and its endurance against multiple threats. “It takes a long time to learn/ how to live anywhere,” Scates declares in the title poem, which draws upon a gardening motif that expands into personal history, “I’d tell how I planted the Abraham Lincoln/ for my mother because it was her favorite/ though as it turned out I planted it too close to the path/ and so she brushed against it every morning.” There is hope here, and a sense of the poet trying to articulate and prioritize the moments that matter over the daily noise, as in “What Matters Most,” which opens: “Up in the meadow, leaves already fallen/ in first rain, my dog is learning to come/ when I call.” Scates’s lyrical language and attention to detail (“dear little waterfall in June,/ town still green in August,/ snow unmelted in the mountains”) make these ruminative poems a pleasure to read.