Saturday, February 06, 2010

On Wings of Gentle Power

On Wings of Gentle Power
Poetry by Barry D. Yelton
Photographs by Dr. Al Past

(Strider Nolan Publishing, Inc. / 1-932-04570-8 / 978-1-932-04570-3 / November 2009 / 110 pages / $9.95 / B&N $8.95)

Reviewed by Lloyd Lofthouse for PODBRAM

In life, sometimes we take a sip that is too hot and we burn ourselves. Other times, it is just right – a nectar that warms our bones and soothes our nerves.

It isn't easy to review a book of poetry because each poem offers a different image. On Wings of Gentle Power, I discovered a theme whispering through the poems that was like a welcome mug of hot chocolate or coffee running toward empty – an ode for mortality and life's downward spiral reminding us that after all the hard times and the good times we are on our way out. No one beats the conclusion to life.

On page 11, Al Past's photo of a small town with a wide street stretching toward the horizon was a metaphor for life, and the poem on that page ends when "a flop-eared hound sums it all up with one huge sigh". That sigh could have been mine.

Later, in "This is No Boy Scout Trail" I read, "The first backpack is always the toughest. They say it gets easier. Today seems to go on forever until finally I can only walk a hundred feet at a time…."

Reading that poem stirred memories when I backpacked into The Sierras. I want to go back and do it again. But the friends I hiked those trails with are no longer here – they've moved on. Only through these words was I able to return for a moment and like the hound, I sighed again.

I understood when in "Cante Libre" on page 80, "There is no greater freedom than that found in the mountains where no alarm intrudes or schedule inhibits."

We lost something when we left the wilderness to grow crops, tend herds of cattle and sheep, and build cities of concrete interrupted by endless alarm clocks and buzzing cell phones and the hum of tires and grumble of internal combustion engines.

On Wings of Gentle Power reminded me of the long, hard road already traveled and of the few miles left before walking into the endless night, and near the end, in "The Last One" the final stanza says, "The house was quiet, just the old man and me. I nodded yes and he nodded, too. The last of his family, the rest all gone and he alone just waiting for the final reunion."

My mother was 89 when she said she was ready. Her hands were twisted and gnarled and her face was etched deeply with a freeway-map of life. Her friends gone—my father and brother, too, and her memories heavy with grief at their loss—so heavy that she didn't want to carry the burden another mile, another step. She wanted to go.

Through poetry like this, we may capture the past and hold onto it a little longer. Too bad, we can't take those words with us when we leave.

See also: Scarecrow in Gray review
Barry Yelton's website


Unknown said...

What a heartfelt review. I have tears in my eyes. It brings up so many emotions.


JanetElaineSmith said...

Wonderful review for a fantastic book. Both the poetry and the pictures brought back many memories to me as I read them too. If you want a walk back through familiar turf, this one will do it. You will smile as you watch Minnie Mouse kiss Grandpa and sigh with the hound as you reflect on those who have gone on before us. I highly recommend this one.