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Nancy Christopherson lives and writes in eastern Oregon. The Leaf is her debut collection.Review:
Nancy Christopherson's first full-length collection of poems, The Leaf, doesn't feel like a first collection. Her voice is deft, mature, subtle and precise, her themes serious and generous, her images often surprising-- she loves the clinging swift/at the end of the passion--and her language rich. I even learned some: preperihelion and empennages. Many poems also reveal a hard-earned compassion. She describes rescuing a Vaux's Swift who hits the window of an airport control tower, feeding starving deer in the winter, mourning a man who was bullied as a child: He lived on the margin of town/near the dump, the gulls, the mud. Close observation of animals is a touchstone here, and the poet's grateful attention to the wild world is unstinting. Three poems have her watching a heron, apprenticing herself to his stillness: the bird is a monk/in smoky grey feathers.../with a patience I greatly admire/and aspire to/if I am to become heron/which I am...
Ten of the 38 poems in the book revolve around her mother and her mother's death. It is a powerful set of poems. While these poems tell a story of Nancy's mother, who burns up the sky with her flaming dance dresses and failed her young children by leaving them to move to Alaska with a boorish husband--How could she do that? Go with him.--they also tell a story of the poet and her own journey of reconciliation and redemption. One of the poems in this series, called Mending My Mother's Clothes, ends with the memory of her mother teaching her to hem: And then she.../would turn up the hem/exposing the nearly invisible threads/and she would cut through them/with her fine little blade, releasing/the soft fabric. And then we would/sew it all back together again. The fine little blade, the nearly invisible threads--these images hold clues to the power of this collection. Christopherson knows the pain of the fine little blade, but is alert to the nearly invisible threads of love and forgiveness that connect us and is gifted at revealing them. Her book offers a grateful glimpse of the world, and may open your heart in ways that will surprise you. --Tina Tau, author of Hardscrabble Road, The Golden Tree, Where the Water Is, and Eating the Foam.
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