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Titled after the name of a type of songbird, Vireo is a collection of more than forty poems steeped in nature with themes based on the life cycle, particularly death. Among Nacker’s poems are a handful that were first published in Mezzo Cammin: An Online Journal of Formalist Poetry by Women, The Wayfarer: A Journal of Contemplative Literature, The Small Pond Magazine of Literature, and Plains Poetry Journal. While the bulk of Nacker’s poetry zeroes in a rather dismal theme, her words find a commonality among readers who have experienced personal loss.

Rising poet Sally Nacker employs various literary skills in her debut book. Lightly emphasizing the use of rhyme among her vast amount of free verse poems, Nacker’s poems also include stricter rhymed patterns, such as couplets (“Yellow Leaves”), enclosed rhyme (“Steepletop Museum”), and a Spenserian-like sonnet (“Emily”). Amid her nature/life cycle themes, Nacker’s words go beyond personal pain and loss (i.e., “Birdwatching,” “The Fair,” and “Vireo”) as she pens her fascinating, and often encouraging, observations on how various forms of nature (birds, house mice, turtles, rabbits, cows, plants, snowflakes) and other people embrace life’s trials and tribulations. Good examples are found in “On Seeking a New Place to Live, “Note to a Pond Turtle,” “The Cows,” “Awaiting the Results of Your Chest X-ray,” and “The Patient.” But that is not all.

Nacker’s poems also look into the lives and deaths of unforgettable poets, such as Edna St. Vincent Malley in “Steepletop Museum” and Emily Dickerson in “Emily,” as well as well-loved children’s illustrator Edith Holden in “The Naturalist.” Unique to Nacker’s collection are poems based on paintings. Nacker’s ekphrastic writings, which feature a range of artists, do nothing less than (with purposeful monotony) reverse the life cycle by breathing life into still life. Yet in order to get the full effect of her poetry, it makes perfect sense – at least to this reviewer – to view the paintings (Internet or otherwise) while reading. Among Nacker’s artistic list are surrealists Marcel Duchamp (“Avoir l’Apprenti dans le Soleil”) and Rene Magritte (“The Stone Man”), two paintings by impressionist Mary Cassett (“Woman Arranging Her Veil” and “The Boating Party”), modernist Marc Chagall (“Clowns at Night”), and realist Andrew Wyeth (“Tea for Two”).

Vireo’s timely messages — especially for readers who are still grieving — opens doors to meditation and personal introspection while offering a ray of hope in the midst of the darker moments of life.

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Star Count 5/5
Format Trade
Page Count 69 pages
Publisher Kelsay Books: White Violet Press
Publish Date 12-Feb-2015
ISBN 9780692377673 Buy this Book
Issue July 2015
Category Poetry & Short Stories


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