Friday, April 09, 2010

Seasons of Defiance by Lance Lee

Book Review: Seasons of Defiance by Lance Lee (2010); Birch Brook Press

Review by Reza Tokaloo

In his second book published by Birch Brook Press, Seasons of Defiance, Lance Lee offers another collection of nature based poetry. Vivid images of nature exchange metaphors with memories of his travels, family life, and his youth. The chaotic beauty of nature repeats throughout the collection in: lightning, thunder, from tumultuous seasons to calm scenes; dunes, beach sands, bending trees, and rivers. Animals play an essential role in creating imagery as well: ravens (“Les Corbeaux des Bonnieux”), horseshoe crabs (such as the one pictured on the books cover; rendered nicely in pen and ink), cardinals, and swooping and soaring sea birds. Mr. Lee carefully and eloquently uses this geography (flora and fauna) and documents their value in his examinations and travels through life.

There are signs within some of the poetry of familiar disruptions crackling and booming like the storms in nature we all have to endure. Nature’s storms and the storms of our personal lives as necessary evils which have to face: dissolving of a family, hardships, and loss.

In the poem “William James to a Friend in Trinity Church, Boston,” we get a decidedly New England feel from Mr. Lee as he attests to the Boston summer with the line, it is “better to fan myself in Boston’s humid air.” A clever metaphor is also (potentially?) slipped in to his poem “Mining Cornwall” as an ode to British literary history through “lanes that twist and leap” (a reference to Tristan’s Leap and the Cornish legend of Tristan?). I found this to be very clever if so.

In summation I found this recent collection by Lance Lee to be a very easy read. The poetry is written in a consistently steady form using great visual language. My only issue with this book is in its title. After reading the collection carefully, I was wondering where the Defiance was? Save for a poem about war and another entitled “Killer Bees” (a morbid piece and hardly a glowing review for these buggers by the author), much of the book is dedicated to his travels through various landscapes and memories. The passage of seasons mirrors the passage of time with reminders of life and death.

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