cover image The Red Drum: Poetry of the American West

The Red Drum: Poetry of the American West

Jane Candia Coleman. High Plains Press, $9.95 (74pp) ISBN 978-0-931271-28-1

Coleman's book is a paean to the American West: to its ``sky so large it challenges,'' and to the silence of a monumental landscape where the ``earth drops away/ in tiers, chasms,/ spirals of history.'' Her language is as cleanly sculpted as the windswept peaks and mesas of the Southwest, and she writes knowledgeably about the region's history, investing it with an almost moral, redemptive weight. In ``Acoma Pueblo'' the dramatic desolation of the landscape inspires spiritual rebirth, while in ``San Ildefonso Pueblo'' Native American wisdom is embodied in a row of ceramic pottery, ``dreaming the shapes of earth.'' At their best, the poems succeed in expressing a hard-earned lesson, that ``endurance is the only necessary thing.'' But they falter when details are undermined by New Age jargon, as in ``Woman Picking Apples,'' where a series of striking images is deflated by the phrase ``the hovering transparency of time.'' When Coleman returns to the concrete and particular, she succeeds in evoking a persuasive power, physical in origin. (Dec.)