EILEEN TABIOS Engages
QUATREFOIL by CB Follett
(Many Voices Press, Kalispell, Montana, 2016)
To think about poems on trees is to think of Joyce Kilmer and her poem “Trees.” I note this as “Tree Music” is my favorite section in CB Follett’s new and charming poetry collection, QUATREFOIL. The other three sections—“Congregation,” “Island Made of Bones” and “Poems for Red Canyons”—feature poems as adept as those in “Tree Music” but I admit my bias upon opening this book: “What is a Tree Poem After Joyce Kilmer’s?”
Follett answers the question well. Her answer would lack integrity, for one, if her tree poems didn’t acknowledge environmental degradation. For example, from “At the Top”—
To the tops of trees,
I would climb …
And above, where I sat,
in the vastness without compromise,
the heady ozone was not yet in danger
of flying loose to other systems.
In general, Follett’s poems make for pleasurable reading as they contain humor and charm—e.g. from “Lobbing Chestnuts,”
Good shot—hard ding, the driver’s foot
off the accelerator, her thoughts rising like smoke,
Where did that come from? the car’s stutter
of indecision, the unseen shrug and moving off.
Sometimes, even at that distance, I could
Put another on the roof, fifty feet away. It had
to come from above, because sometimes the car
would stop dead, the door swing open, someone would get out and look.
I could feel them looking,
though my tree had a trunk thicker than I was,
and my sweater was navy
and my pants too.
—evocative reverse nostalgia—e.g.
Where Air Grows Thin
in red overalls
in a chestnut tree
listening to bird song
look up through branches
to the lacework
in the great void
of your future
—and, importantly, empathy—e.g.
Hazardous Tree Area
Sign in the Presidio of San Francisco
Hundred-year-old spruce trees
lean. Their roots spread to hold
are slipping free, the ground
with a season of downpour.
I know how they feel,
how wind has more endurance
and sweeps off the ocean
with its overwhelming breath,
and sometimes you just can’t hold.
Overall, the poems manifest the poet’s believably autobiographical stance in the first line of the book’s opening poem, “The Loving of Trees”—
I am in love with trees
Indeed. Fullstop. But let me nod to the book’s other sections by sharing from a different section a poem that may be my favorite in the book because I love dogs and the impact of the poem’s powerful last line is unforgettable:
Island of Lost Bones
on an island made of bones
and each gnaw of hunger
reduces his real estate.
All too soon, he must nose
under water to drag out succulence.
In time, he stands on tiptoe,
forepaws a’paddle: last bone
tight in his teeth. Desperate
moment, and then, She
pushes a boat in from stage right.
I thank CB Follett for this very substantial poetry collection.
Eileen Tabios does not let her books be reviewed by Galatea Resurrects because she's its editor (the exception would be books that focus on other poets as well). She is pleased, though, to point you elsewhere to recent reviews of her work: THE CONNOISSEUR OF ALLEYS was reviewed by Marthe Reed for The Volta Blog and Grady Harp for Amazon; INVENT(ST)ORY was reviewed by Neil Leadbeater in The Halo-Halo Review Mangozine #2; Reproductions of the Empty Flagpole was reviewed by Monica Manolachi in The Halo-Halo Review Mangozine #2; Footnotes to Algebra was reviewed by Chris Mansel in The Halo-Halo Review Mangozine #2; and SILK EGG was reviewed by Aileen Ibardaloza in Goodreads.