Kindness in Winter
by Sally Nacker
24 Poems ~ 42 Pages
Format: 6” x 9” ~ Perfect Bound
Publisher: Kelsay Books
To Order: Kelsay Books
Reviewed by Michael Escoubas
In the winter of his life Leo Tolstoy devoted some 17 years to compiling a journal
of wise sayings that he felt would serve the world for generations yet unborn. Of
kindness, Tolstoy had this to say,
“Kindness is for your soul as health is for your body: you do not notice it
when you have it.”
I thought about Tolstoy’s dictum as I enjoyed the poems in Sally Nacker’s latest
collection, Kindness in Winter. While I sense no motive in Nacker’s work to “save
the world,” or to promote a moral agenda, I find embedded in her poems a heart
for life, an empathy for the world which surrounds her. The season itself, speaks a
word of kindness into her being, into her soul.
A complaint about reading poetry that frequently reaches my ears runs variously
as follows, “I don’t read poetry because poetry is so hard to understand.” On a
personal note, I want first and foremost that my readers understand my poems. So
does Sally Nacker. These are poems written to be enjoyed. I begin with the title
poem, “Kindness in Winter.” The poem’s protagonist is a nine-year-old girl named
Young Scarlet stands in deepening snow—
where she knows the doe
knows she has stood
before—at the edge of the wood.
The doe turns her ears toward the soft, recognizable sound
In the snow on the ground.
She listens from far in the wood—
and from a place of long-ago. Good
Scarlet feeds the gentle doe
red apples in the twinkling snow.
I picture the softness of the scene, the open and kind heart of Scarlet. I’m drawn to
the color contrast between Scarlet, the red apples offered, and the twinkling snow.
In a mere 10 lines we have a winter scene. But this is more than a scene contrived.
The poem is a tone-setter. In a world often characterized by violence and the get-
out-of-my-way push to achieve one’s selfish ends, this collection is refreshing.
To be sure, Nacker does not restrict herself to just one season. She touches all sea-
sons and with little effort links common experiences to them. “Old Age,” is but
Despite all likely lonelinesses,
illnesses, and losses,
my wish is still
to one day be very old—to sit
beside the windowsill
like now, and know
the birds that come and go—
to quietly observe the snow
dissolve into a field of flowers.
Power in language looks away from itself. With stunning simplicity, Nacker
captures the aging process in terms that make the inevitable palatable.
Nacker’s background is New England; Connecticut to be specific. “Early Spring”
captures a simple life any one of us might aspire to:
The man and his wife live simply,
turning the wood in their stove.
It burns like thought and poetry
In the making, throws love
On the cool spring morning. Behind
their little house a garden grows
spinach and greens, the kind
uplifting faces of new primrose.
This poem causes me to conjure applewood smoke curling from the chimney, the
sweet fragrance of biscuits baking and dew sparkling on early spring grass.
Continuing with examples of seasonal poems other than winter, you shouldn’t skip
over “Edge Habitat in August Rain.” This gem pictures a woman sitting quietly in
the rain while birds flit and frolic “as though she were not there.” Similarly, if you
like poems wherein the weather and human beings meld into a single being, make
a note to read “David’s Art.” “Watercolors splashed over the paper, coloring / the
blank world with a heaving and tossing / of my own heart.”
By way of poetic technique, Nacker’s poetry is fraught with rhyme. But she does it
effortlessly. I am not a big fan of rhyme. Poets often force their rhymes, straining
self-consciously to think of just the right rhyme to fit in the line. Nacker is like
Javier Baez fielding a grounder at shortstop. The batted ball, the pickup, the toss to
first base are of a piece, a work of art contained within itself. This is the treat for-
tunate readers have in store when they purchase a copy of Sally Nacker’s Kindness