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The Wingspan of Things
by Jeannie E. Roberts
16 poems, 33 pages
Price: $7.00
ISBN: (none assigned, the publisher and the author are the sole marketers and distributors)
Publisher: Dancing Girl Press & Studio
To order:

Reviewed by Michael Escoubas

The poet Jeannie Roberts opens her new collection with a telling quote from Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, One must ask children and birds how cherries and strawberries taste. Goethe, known for his lyric poetry, as well as his love for children and nature seems to hover ever so lightly over Roberts’ beautifully nuanced collection. I begin at the end of Wingspan because Gratitude embodies the entire spirit of this excellent work,


It’s the heavenly sound
when chimes find a song
in breeze, the sparkle
of snow, the back and forth
show where hummingbirds
feed, it’s an endless blue sky
when summer’s not shy
to shine, the ferment
of leaves, the woodlands
at ease, in fall, it’s the call
of a thrush when evening’s
at hush in June, the echo
of grouse, the skitter
of mouse, near crocus
in bloom, it’s the swoop
of an owl, the pitch
of its howl, in spring,
it’s the high wire coos
on a walk where you choose
to love the life you lead.

How often do we adults lose the awe and wonder of children still discovering the world, untainted by the horrors that numb our adult psyches? As I “slow-read” this poem, I’m transported back to childhood, where I, once again, delight in my first taste of cherries and strawberries.

Gratitude also highlights the poet’s stylistic use of internal rhyme, alliteration and assonance. Roberts sustains her use of these and other poetic devices quite nicely throughout the volume. Her style is restrained, free of pomposity. She is the type of writer who invites one to sit on the porch for tea and jellied biscuits. I found myself quite comfortable living in her world.

Of the 16 poems included in the collection more than half reference birds in some significant way. After all, we are talking about “Wingspan”! Roberts definitely appreciates grace and beauty on wing. The poet however, like any good artist, keeps both feet on the ground. Among creatures of the aviary expect to meet: Red-Winged Blackbird, Wood Duck, Brown-Headed Cowbird, Wood Thrush, Robin, Mourning Dove, Hummingbird, Meadowlark, Woodpecker, Hawk, and Gull. Check out After Surgery, where Roberts makes a unique application of her interest in birds.

Hummingbird is inspired by Mexican painter Frida Kahlo’s, Self-Portrait with Thorn Necklace and Hummingbird. You won’t want to miss the poet’s unique treatment of the human condition through the medium of ekphrastic poetry.

Finding the Light delighted me as Roberts recalls the wonders of childhood. She led me,

Past the last brick path,
between the swing set

and split-rail fence, four
four-leaf clovers,

cushioned in sunshine.

Perhaps my readers join me in recalling June evenings when lightning bugs danced against night’s black curtain.  But Oh How It Feels so Real, showcases the poet’s talent for immersing the reader visually, upon the aphrodisiac/of moss’s softness.

Throughout the pages of Wingspan, Roberts’ poems are preoccupied with life on the move. Winged creatures, be they birds or butterflies, be they the 3:20 school bus (where a feather floats in the afternoon light) or her son’s tattoos, (which depict his lineage and more), the poet kept me interested. This compact book of poems is bigger than it looks; I felt its power,

Surging through me
renewal rises, in this
my Rush River valley.

Thanks to Jeannie Roberts, I learned, once again, how cherries and strawberries taste.


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