Driftwood Fire by Patricia Duffy

Poetry lovers will adore this book! Each poem takes us to one of Michigan’s many cycling trails. We follow the speaker/cyclist to the trails and before long, we feel like we are riding alongside her, passing by lakes, rivers, and gardens, and fields. Yet it doesn’t take long forreaders to know that there’s more going on here than mere homage to Michigan bike trails. Ms. Duffy’s writing is succinct and as crystal-clear as some of the lakes she has doubtless pedaled past. Vivid detail (“riots of sunflowers,” “field the color of lions,” “Flat stones we launch/skipover the shivers of waves”) shows her to be an astute observer of nature.

Like many a well-written poem, her work is richly associative. In ‘Familiarity Breeds Family’ she describes being dive-bombed by a mother owl. After narrowly escaping the owl’s talons, she notices an elderly couple who put her in mind of her mother washing dishes. In ‘Driftwood Fire’ a gull’s song reminds the speaker of rock bands from her youth: The Grateful Dead, Motley Crue and Motorhead. In ‘Appearances,’ she describes a river as “…pleasant on the surface/But beneath, currents roil.” This could well be said of the poems here: something deeper is always going on beneath the surface.

Subjects range from family, love relationships, as well as the natural world. Her powerful observations at times lead to occasional uneasy memories, such as recalling guilt she felt as part of a group in China who did nothing after witnessing a girl run over a puppy on a scooter. She wonders if a love relationship will last or even if it’s worth it in ‘The Side of Desire.’ And while “… the complexities/Of enduring/Another human being in my life” are ‘exhausting,’ for the speaker, the tone is upbeat, as ‘desire’ wins in the end. Again, the poet seems to be summing up the reader’s experience of reading this collection when she writes: “A pearl of a ride/In the rubbish of a week.” These are quietly passionate, transcendent poems which will uplift and never disappoint!

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