The Forest of Sure Things, Poems by Megan Snyder-Camp

I ended up reading this collection four times. The first time I just enjoyed the words, the sound of them, the flow. I ignored that nagging, rational part of my mind that is always demanding to know what things mean. I just shut it up in a closet and let it rattle around and fuss while I let the words slip through my thoughts.

Lonely whitecap limpet, days are not true. You stand on one foot,

and we brush past. To live a life is not to walk across a field.

The second time I read for images, lingering over each poem and letting resonances collect in the space between them. Some images move seamlessly into the next, while others leave gaps, crevasses for the imagination to fill.

Above her

a hummingbird pivots, unsure.

Inside the girl a field of reeds, a year of hinges,

her father's boat crossing the wide water.

For the third reading I let the demanding creature out of the closet and read for meaning. The book is in two parts. The first is about a young family in an isolated town in the Pacific Northwest, about the writer learning and imagining about this family. As in a fairy tale, this family has the first child born in the town in a century, but their second child is stillborn. Precise sensual images anchor the way grief dismantles the small family.

A dictionary of smells. The kitchen of the year she'd left, scrub pines,

sassafras from the schoolyard and mossy tennis courts.

The second part takes the authors personal experiences of pregnancy, birth, work, marriage—all those essentials of life. Some of the poems are acrostics, and many have allusions to children's books and fairy tales, unsurprising fare for a new parent. The imagery here is less dense, occasionally playful. Still, even the lightest poems are informed by the images and emotions of the earlier section, the threat of loss, the awareness of just how tenuous a construct this family life can be.

The first person in recorded history

struck by a comet slept on her couch

across the road from the Comet Drive-In

The fashion these days, or so I'm told, is to construct poetry chapbooks and collections as narratives, so that the entire group falls within a single story arc. I prefer the tension that Snyder-Camp creates, where each poem stands alone, but takes on new meaning within the context of the other poems in the book.

I let everything go for my fourth reading, allowing words, images, meaning to merge into an extraordinary experience. I've found Tupelo Press to be a reliable source of outstanding poetry, and this book is no exception. I highly recommend it.

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