Vigilance is No Orchard

Hazel White. Nightboat, $16.95 trade paper (92p) ISBN 978-1-937658-82-3
White (Peril as an Architectural Enrichment) unites her passions in this finely conceived collection that fixates on one remarkable garden in Santa Barbara, Calif. The work evolved over many years, from White’s first, visceral encounter with the Valentine Garden through her long friendship with the garden’s designer, legendary landscape architect Isabelle Greene. “I want to live in the green,” White puns. “And this wants out of me onto the page.” The book formally and substantively records White’s apprenticeship in Greene’s principles of composition, “reaching beyond a lesson to a dappled place where light plays.” Just as plants of Southern California’s harsh terrain “demonstrate the filigree of survival,” so do White’s lines form a “zigzag path/ of abandonment.” These elements both invite the reader to view from a distance and “draw a visitor forward” into contact, shelter, even trespass. White’s most ambitious passages merge poetry with the physical and phenomenological properties of this single, intentional acre: “now alive in the mind of the other, building to achieve her for her.” And yet, suffusing the book’s memorialization of the garden is the fact of its passing: “The vision was not mine to keep. It slows and fails.” Exquisitely alert to the realities of natural environments, White’s book is among the most interesting of the new nature writing. (June)
Reviewed on: 05/21/2018
Release date: 05/01/2018
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