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Wild as in Familiar
by Ellaraine Lockie
25 poems/26 pages/$12.00
Finishing Line Press

Reviewed by Ed Bennett

One does not approach Ellaraine Lockie’s poetry casually. A winner of numerous awards in several genres, her work has the straightforward language of a seasoned poet yet each poem has a metaphysical depth that demands a second and third reading. Her craft is meticulous, like a diamond cutter creating a work that dazzles.

Her latest collection, “Wild as in Familiar”, brings her laser-like observations to bear on nature, childhood, family and society. Many poets cover the same ground, admittedly, but Ms. Lockie’s ability to find an optimistic side to the common and barely observed phenomena is unique. Her very first poem, Drawing Breath”, begins with an all too common description (to those of us of a certain age) of a patient with sleep apnea. After strapping on the “masked armor” in preparation for sleep, the narrator observes a crane fly, a creature with a three day lifespan dedicated to species procreation. The insect has no problems drawing breath and is unaware of the shortness of its lifespan. Pondering whether to turn the creature outside the window or simply turn off the light, the poem comes to completion as both narrator and the minute fly find solace in

The flickering shadow of a familiar
An angel of mercy who brings
breath like the slack tide

There is wistfulness in these poems borne of careful observation, especially when dealing with familial matters. “Wings Clipped” begins with a grandparent explaining random occurrences to their grandson. As is usually the case, the elder speaker begins as an all knowing being, only to be caught up in their own web of contradiction. The reader can almost hear the sigh in the last two lines

I don’t know for sure, I say

           falling from my stellar branch

Ms. Lockie’s strongest poems are those where she comments on the social condition. In “A Matter of Degree” she compares life in rural Montana to the city. The “instinct of obligation” is imprinted in the rural soul and the weight of that obligation becomes a burden within the city where tone finds the needs of so many others

intolerable when there is no more to give

This is not the usual complaint one makes about city living. This is not about crowds or the pace of life. The narrator’s problem is that there is simply too much need to be filled by one raised with the obligation to care for one’s neighbor. Ms. Lockie looks at both rural and urban settings and finds her way into her soul.

Ms. Lockie has dedicated this collection to Harvey Stanbough who ran a writer’s retreat that she attended. Her poem “Writer’s Retreat” repeats some of his wisdom as he gives an evening seminar in the Arizona desert. There is a personal touch to this poem involving a beetle and the impact of both insect and words on Ms. Lockie. I won’t try to dissect this wonderful poem here and leave it to the reader to experience it for one’s self. Ms Lockie attributes ability to be observant with Mr. Stanbough’s teaching but her ability to turn her eye to a topic does not seem to be the new technique of a fledgling poet. Her eye is sharp and her poetry is exacting, no doubt from her years of practicing her craft.

As stated, one does not approach Ellaraine Lockie’s poetry casually, but one is never disappointed in it either. Each poem is an impetus to look deeper at a subject and try to find a meaning unique to your own understanding of the world.


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