A Terrific Book

Shouldn’t the world pause for at least an instant or two when a poet finds his or her voice and its perfect theme?  If so, it should pause at Andrea Scarpino’s new book, What The Willow Said As It Fell (Red Hen Press, 2016).

This such a beautiful, stunning book, that it seems inadequate to merely describe it, to say that it is a single long poem, a meditation on chronic pain and love and nature and words and the impossibility of ever really understanding what ails us and of explaining it to anyone else—inadequate because that’s not where the poetry is.

Andrea Scarpino

Andrea Scarpino

Andrea Scarpino is Poet Laureate of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula and author of Once, Then (Red Hen Press, 2014) and the chapbook The Grove Behind (Finishing Line Press).  Shortly you will be able to hear her reading from the book at our Talk About Poetry podcasts pages, which also contain a prior reading in Syracuse, and an extended interview with her by me and Stephen Kuusisto.  The links will be at Soundcloud   (https://soundcloud.com/bobherz) and iTunes (https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/talk-about-poetry/id972411979?mt=2).

The poetry in this new collection is in the technique, the energy, in the craft of the making, and in the joy visible throughout this book, from the opening to the closing poem. Between the two we get a vision of what it means to be human in the visible world when every moment is a matter of intention, of making the choice to live and to find peace against a visible opponent without a name, a disease without a diagnosis.

Here’s what I mean:  here’s how the poem opens:

Before the day :

sunrise over the lake, seagull clatter, crow,

sound of glasses stacked, restacked, metal slid

into place. Cacophony of blossoming :

forsythia, lilac, cherry’s pink-tipped sway. 

And here is how it ends:


My body in pain. Waiting.

And then I left it. Turned myself to tree. 

And between those two places a life moves, beautiful, breathing, remembering, thinking about pain and love, questioning Job-like, why is this affliction brought unto me, frustrated that medical technology with all its knowledge and pills and techniques cannot find its cause only its effects, but the voice still offering love and still coping or trying to cope with the given of the life, and finding beauty in the world around, a beauty become more valuable perhaps, more precious, because of the affliction, because of the stakes of the life that the affliction forces to attention at every moment.