Reviewed by Ann Fallon
the craft that supercedes it's themes however afflicted, and on
every page of this book Melissa Green’s reverential elations
uplift and soothe the reader as naturally and cleanly as the morning wind?
This ‘joy in the craft’ is evident throughout the book and harmonises with the untameable aspects of nature which her poetry engages fully with. Green's American English brings in aspects of her locality and experience which acknowledge it's personal ecology, its recent history and its distant native American inheritance - especially in place names and the translations of those names. Her more distant European heritage is present when she introduces ideas and words which carry strong Greek and Latin classical allusions - for example in the poem 'Water' she carefully places the word 'stone' with the word 'lithe' deliberately calling to mind the Greek 'lithos' (stone), and in 'Decoration Day' quoted above, the reference to the thread and the maze recalls the Greek legend of Theseus and the Minotaur, and perhaps the Latin retelling of such stories. These deft touches can make one laugh in recognition and delight, but never encumber the poems or prevent the reader from travelling swiftly on as the river does. In 'Water' the poet 'carries in her supple / Body' the story of the river through the language itself, and encourages her readers to share an Aristotelian sense of wonder, embodied here as 'a long-legged doe, [who] / Drinks in deeply, as all instinctive creatures do, /And laughs, leaping the current, printing the field with dew.'
'The Squanicook Eclogues' is the first of the four long poems in the book and is organized, into four seasons, each of which has four sketches leading up to a different element. In the first season entitled ‘April’ the element evoked is ‘Water’:
I saw how Joseph Wright would heft his ax,
Wachusett, Asnacomet, Burnshirt Hill
still wilderness, his Great Farm Thirty-Two
a parchment blot, a Monarch's dribbled tea.
And these are recalled in the closing lines of the final section of this poem where Wright, his ax and his craftsmanship are invoked once again:
Who knows what heaven is? Or if we're left
with Joseph shouldering his ax, the girth
of ringed infinity's elm - to try and glimpse
through darkness Martha's incandescent lamps.
Does broken Carthage most resemble death,
or do those workmen on the roof who lift
a horizontal beam, stripped to the waist,
still forge the final crosspiece of the West?
This image announces Green's intention to carve her own materials into the stuff of eternity, a task which she certainly achieves by the end of the The Squanicook Eclogues. This short review should give an indication of the depth, skill and pure joy which Green brings to her poetry. This collection will no doubt be studied in universities throughout the world and the critical theories associated with phenomenological studies, eco-criticism and eco-feminism may all be brought to bear with regard to it's various layers - and in this case deservedly so, carrying as it does the depth needed for such study and the weight of genius with it. It examines the history of her growth as a family member, as an American and as a poet and provides a cross section of twentieth century life which I have no doubt will intrigue future critics.
However, more than this, this collection deserves to be read, and loved and re-read, and eventually passed on to future generations.
The Squanicook Eclogues are published by:
The Pen & Anvil Press and is available
on Amazon.com here
Also available on Kindle:
on Amazon.co.uk here: