cover image Threnody


Juliet Patterson. Nightboat, $15.95 trade paper (96p) ISBN 978-1-937658-55-7

In this melancholic collection, Patterson (The Truant Lover) focuses on nature’s understated interactions during a time of “some erosion// and ecology’s abolition.” She laments the looming destruction of nature even as that destruction portends the creation of something new. This tension is ingrained in moments featuring the gleam of winter ice, wild rivers, and biting cold. In Patterson’s vision, nature rarely gives without taking some small token in return. Her imagery is never overindulgent or stifling. She uses minimalism as a way to sharpen her depictions of emotions and memories. In the poem “White Cedar, Migratory Noon,” waxwings—attractive, forest-dwelling birds—accentuate the isolation of winter, though the birds can easily escape the unforgiving change in season. The title poem emphasizes the powerlessness of humans when met with the fury of the natural world. Like time, Patterson shows, nature does not bow to the will of mortals; to appreciate and understand nature is to become intimate with the burden of loss. In poems such as “Chlorosis,” nature is as alive as the human body, and sunlight is a symbol of health and vitality. The absence of life is present in Patterson’s colorless leaves, the washed-out sky, and even the oppressive silence of the wilderness. (Oct.)