cover image Sweet Breathing of Plants

Sweet Breathing of Plants

. North Point Press, $24 (356pp) ISBN 978-0-86547-559-5

The second volume in Hogan and Peterson's trilogy on women and the natural world (following Intimate Nature: The Bond Between Women and Animals), this meditative, conscientious collection of 39 poems and essays ranges from personal to scientific entries written by women from all walks of life (including expected names, like Rachel Carson, Diane Ackerman, Kathleen Norris and Alice Walker, as well as more offbeat choices, like Isabel Allende and Zora Neale Hurston). Allende's tribute to her native Chile, from where she brought soil and forget-me-nots to replant in exile, is particularly moving, as is the wry poem Mulch by Linda Hasselstrom (Windbreak), in which the poet imagines that a biodegradable mash of photos, bills and old love letters keeps her garden free of weeds. Some pieces are light and sociable, like Sharman Apt Russell's essay on the mores of flower giving, while others are deliberate acts of feminist consciousness raising, such as psychologist Jeanne Achterberg's sociopolitical history of female homeopaths in medieval Europe who were murdered because of their seemingly magical remedies. Marine biologist Sylvia Earle takes readers on a walk on the ocean floor; Anita Endrezze compels us to admire kernels of corn as she memorializes her Mexican Indian heritage; biochemist Linda Jean Shepherd enjoins others to consider the ecological value of weeds. Not merely for nature lovers, this provocative collection ranks with the best anthologies of women's writing. Agents, Elizabeth Wales and Beth Vesel. (Feb.)