Thursday, August 05, 2010

Grassroots by Jared Smith

Jared Smith
Wind Publications
ISBN 978-1-936138-09-8

Review by Irene Koronas

Jared Smith is a prolific writer. In his most recent collection of poems, 'Grassroots,' his voice is mellow and strong like a great sequoia. We hear the prosody, his consistent, insistent voice warning the reader of dangers associated with turning out:

"…The sky is cornflower blue tonight,
mountains pasted against orange clouds.
No depth. But in this spring warmth
brought upon us Washington and Wall Street
are as far as a car can run on rum and corn.
Men with heart attacks building in their veins
are shipping coffins across the oceans
but here on the sere sands of home something
more sacred than all their dreams evanesces away.
I watch from my porch as distance falls flat with sun…"

In the excerpt of the above poem, 'monsoon,' Jared Smith's voice, like winter water rushing over boulders, "keeping watch over the dead." Smith asks the earth, questions, "I want to know what they say, what the earth signals to itself rushing outward in the cosmos" His questions are reminiscent of a long marriage:

"It's the knick-knacks on department store shelves that give it away.
I miss the way your hands used to curl about my thoughts
each morning.
So much of life is our mementos being placed in orderly sequence and then sold."

It took me a few reading before I was able to unclog my summer ears and catch the intimacy of Jared's poems, how living beside mountains move him:

"When you live up close to the mountains
disaster comes at you quickly, without worry.
The floods, when they come, are instant washings
of trees, boulders, cars, mud, flesh, and then gone.
You rebuild instantly in a landscape shaped by nature;
you don't worry about the slow-building droughts
or the warring away of cement encased institutions
because you learn where the deepest rivers flow
and where the caribou migrate among the seasons.
You learn the bitter acid tang of Oregon grapes.
You learn to keep a bit of land around you; you
learn to fill the hummingbird feeders in summer
because the bears will follow in their time, and
you never know when you'll need to find a bear."

'Grassroots' holds all the trees, all their branches from top to the bottom shade, the clean breath beside whatever nature provides; her great sentences. Smith's poems relate nature and the nature of situations.

Irene Koronas
Poetry Editor:
Wilderness House Literary Review
Ibbetson Street Press

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