Book Review: Rooted and Winged by Luanne Castle
Luanne Castle’s second full-length poetry collection, Rooted and Winged, is the poetry of connection, starting with the connection between roots and wings themselves as metaphor. Do our roots–particularly our family background–give us the ability to fly, or do they tether us?
There are no easy answers in this collection, and I would have been disappointed if there were. As the speaker in “I Started to Write a Poem about Packing” notes, “A question isn’t for answering but for asking.” The poet’s job is not to answer the hard questions for us. The poet’s job is to prompt us to ask the hard questions of ourselves. Rooted and Winged succeeds in achieving this goal admirably.
The collection opens with a striking visual image—“Flickering afternoon light slatted and parsed”—as the speaker of the poem sits in Magpie’s Grill on a Tuesday afternoon. She is confounded by the poet’s urge to both record and transform experience into something true and transcendent, all the while aware that her body is simply thirsty for a beer.
The word parsed in the first line of “Tuesday Afternoon at Magpie’s Grill” is much more than an apt description of light coming through window blinds. The poems that follow in the collection will parse past remembered experience to make vital connections to present lived experience, thereby creating meaning. At the same time, the speaker acknowledges the inadequacy of language—of poetry—to ever “capture the ease of wind-filled wings, / tail feathers a translucent backlit fan, / as my hollow bones jettison the detritus / to fly upward against the source.”
“Noah and the Middle School Marching Band” further addresses the poet’s connection to language in a whimsical yet deadly serious response to the dangers inherent in learning, practicing, and, ultimately, mastering the craft by which a poet renders her vision in language form for others to experience:
That famous poet chastised me
for putting birds in poems
as if he released them from
their lined and stanzaed cages when
he grew bored with their singing.
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Inside my shabby bars, they wobble
on perches I improvise as they arrive.
Castle’s exploration of our connections to the natural world and the creatures we share it with is particularly insightful and thought-provoking, at times discomfiting. The speaker in “The Wildlife Photographer and the Big Kill,” for example, initially wants to scare away a bobcat in her yard about to kill a rabbit, to “protect the vulnerable at all costs”—until she recognizes the folly of interfering with the nature order of things: a bobcat kills a rabbit for food to survive, not out of malice, greed, or sadistic pleasure.
Water is a leitmotif in the collection, used to exceptional effect in “Into Pulp.” This poem compares the passage of time to standing in moving water, gradually becoming aware that time is abrading our surface like constantly moving water. Peering into the water for images of the past distorts them, and trying to exhume the memories from their watery grave will not stop their “transmigration into pulp.”
In Rooted and Winged, readers will find a poetic sensibility very much aware—and trying to make sense of—that time in life when we have more years behind us than before us. As the speaker in “Into Pulp” wryly notes: “I’m at an age where I think I’m at the age / and I don’t imagine eyerolls.”
Rooted and Winged is a finely-crafted collection of rich, layered, and nuanced poetry, which will provide new insights—and rewards—to the reader with each rereading.
Elizabeth Gauffreau has published fiction and poetry in numerous literary magazines, including DASH, Natural Bridge, and Woven Tale Press, in addition to a novel, Telling Sonny, and a poetry collection, Grief Songs: Poems of Love & Remembrance. She lives in Nottingham, New Hampshire. Learn more about her work at http://lizgauffreau.com.
Write something about yourself. No need to be fancy, just an overview.