Reflections: Life, the River, and Beyond
by Tarweed Poets, Jim Bumgarner, Lenora Good and Jim Thielman
83 poems ~ 121 pages
Publisher: Kindle Direct Publications
To Order: Amazon.com
Reviewed by Michael Escoubas
Gracing the back cover of the Tarweed Poets’ latest collection is an inset of a Tarweed
plant. I mention this because of the number 3. Tarweed petals have three edges, the work
of 3 poets is represented in the collection and there are 3 dimensions, Life, the River and
Beyond treated within the total work. While the tarweed is regarded as a “weed,” the
plant itself is incredibly beautiful and fragrant. Presenting primarily in yellow or white it
is strong and resilient, a perfect description of Jim Bumgarner, Lenora Good and Jim
Thielman. A weed is anything the gardener does not want in his or her garden. Make no
mistake about it friends, Reflections: Life, the River and Beyond is a fragrant flower that
belongs on your library shelf.
Jim Bumgarner: Reflections and Observations
When reviewing a collection, I ask myself: Does the poet understand his audience? That
is, do the poems tweak my toe?
Like the Bumgarner’s, my wife and I are empty nesters. We know so well the quiet house
and the lack of those things we took for granted when our rambunctious kids were home.
We know the feeling of routines and how blessed we were with:
that filled the old place
“The Empty Nest,” from which the above excerpt is drawn, appears early on inviting
readers to settle in with a poet who knows where they live.
I have a principle that I employ in my own writing: ordinary things are the stuff of great
poetry. Titles such as “Lazy Day,” “I Like the Rain” and “You Lie So Very Still in the
Mornings,” are pregnant with life. “What We Carried in our Hearts” took me back to
early morning slow walks at the edge of a stand of timber near my home:
The gentle rain fell softly
that early morning in the park.
Later, the sun emerged,
the air warm,
light sparkled through
For those who think such poems overly sentimental, I hasten to point out Bumgarner’s
poetic range. An “Ode to Rosie the Riveter” provides an interesting take on the role of
women during WWII, with unexpected implications for their post-war lives. In other
poems Bumgarner channels Frank O’Hara, William Carlos Williams and Pablo Neruda. I
offer in full “The Yellow Canary”:
So much depends
into the flowers
near the tree
beside the tea
Lenora Rain-Lee Good: River Songs
One of the strengths of any collection of poems is variety. Poet Lenora Good contributes
22 poems which sing songs about rivers. They sing with compelling grace. Good’s voice
is uniquely her own. The poems in this section personify the “River” as an omnipresent
force. Nchi-Wana, or “Big River” (pronounced neeshee wanna) bears witness to history.
Big River, now the Columbia River, once flowed cold, wild, and free. In the section’s lengthy,
five-part lead poem, Good weaves a compelling historical narrative about the river’s origins,
history, its interaction with Native American tribes, including missionary activity in the region.
She does this from an empathetic background as the poet herself claims blood-linkage with the
Catawba, Sioux, and Cherokee tribes. Good's insights on the people and events surrounding "Big
River's" history is worth the price of the book itself.
Stylistically, Good writes primarily in free verse. Her poems tell interesting stories based
upon the regional history of which she is so familiar. A student of nature, her River Song
poems paint vivid portraits of pelicans, gulls, geese, cormorants, coots, eagles and more.
Her verse is never boring as she skillfully uses indentations, lineation, strong verbs and
nouns which propel the action forward. Her short poem “Water Birds” bears testimony:
Night falls on still waters
dark bodies clump together
for a living, breathing raft.
Sun warms eastern sky
raft dissolves with deliberate slowness.
Water birds get on with their lives.
Jim Thielman: Beyond the Bridge
Earlier in this review I pointed out two virtues I look for in any poetry collection: Does
the poet understand his audience and thereby speak to its heart? Followed by: Does the
volume offer variety that demonstrates command of poetic range and possibility?
Poet Jim Thielman’s work answers these questions with a resounding Yes! Like
Bumgarner and Rain-Lee Good before him, Thielman’s 30 poems are indispensable to a
well-rounded volume. While each poet tackles similar life-themes, each preserves their
own distinctive style and voice. “Survival Kit” sets the tone:
Cast a line in waters of memory and wait,
Something will come nibbling at the surface.
It’s up to you to play it in, there’s no one else.
It’s a fine feeling bringing in your catch.
Be flexible enough to play out line.
Let wind take your hat, you play the game.
The poison that will kill it all is doubt
that something lighter even that a seed
could build so many palaces in air.
Sometimes you might hook the future.
Give yourself time. Go fishing every day.
Sometimes, conditions are not right,
or some fellow takes your favorite spot.
Don’t waste your days courting troubles.
Tease a string dropped deep into dreams.
Behind you your tribe waits for dinner.
You have to use every trick you know.
Having established his commonsense skeleton about what matters in life, Thielman puts
“flesh on its bones.” He is aware of how the waters of memory affect our lives.
In love with the natural world, Thielman’s survival kit includes nuanced awareness of
how it feels to walk among clouds and sun on a crisp autumn day. Several poems
showcase seasonal beauty in the presence of clouds. Look for “Tuesday in Richland,” one
of several poems which allude to challenges presented by Coronavirus.
Although Thielman’s section features the concept of “Beyond,” his feet remain firmly
planted on the ground. A well-written sestina informs readers that “Difficult times can
offer marvelous rewards.” In another poem, “Lines of poetry and music, too, / are paths
to places beyond time." //
Not one to offer preachy pronouncements to hard questions, Thielman’s “What I Don’t
Know” places the poet squarely on the same page with the rest of us who search for
answers. The poet’s relational affinity is displayed in this excerpt from “Rising”:
Sometimes, I think
how little I have done,
my legacy: a chair I made,
two children with my wife,
a golf swing or two on target,
the tending of things that break,
and this wish for all of us—
peace brothers, sisters,
fruit of blue water
and a long kiss of the sun.
My friends allow Tarweed Poets, Bumgarner, Good and Thielman to pull back the
curtain on reflections that you may apply to your life, your river and your beyond.