Into A New Country, Deborah Fleming

Into a New Country by Deborah Fleming

Into A New Country, Deborah Fleming
Into A New Country
Deborah Fleming
(2016, WordTech)
$19, Paper

Review by Diana Woodcock

From a rondeau with blues variation, in which the reader is caught up in the conversation of two men baring their souls in a bus station, to tercets depicting four endangered Brown pelicans “in silent harmony,” to an etude for Norway spruces planted on their wedding day by two German immigrants, the poet takes us along for the lyrical ride—and what a ride it turns out to be.  From mountains and lake of Glendalough (County Wicklow, Ireland) to Mt. Rainier and San Francisco Bay, to Glacier Bay in Alaska, to Farallon Islands all the way “into a new country.”  And the reader is soon following this poet willingly to Point Reyes, Lake Tahoe, the Cascades – all the way to Hydra where our dreams, like the poet’s—thanks to her lyrical rendering— “blossom into islands,” to Chernobyl and Baghdad, to Anne Frank’s House in Amsterdam, where again the poet’s composure and restraint—coupled with her adept handling of rhyme—allows us to know without falling apart “unspeakable truth . . . all we allowed to be lost.”  Even as she gathers us together at the Vietnam War Memorial for a moment of collective grief, her skillful treatment of lyricism with restraint helps us stay composed even while feeling the full impact of the memorial’s necessity.

Beginning and ending with short lyrics “Aubade” and “Nocturne,” the collection is about love:  love lost as in “Two Old Men in the Bus Station,” love missed as in “Glendalough,” love wondered at as in “Dun Aengus,” love endangered as in “Brown Pelicans over San Francisco Bay,” and love realized as in “Anniversary.”  It is also about love of place as in four poems about the western landscape and the author’s farm in northeastern Ohio.  The use of fifteen different forms, as well as free verse, makes this book a candidate for use in poetry writing classes.

With so much water, light and fog—and so many winged birds and spirits swirling throughout this collection—the reader could begin to feel a bit queasy were it not for the poet’s competent usage of form and her flair for creating images that embody both the literal and figurative depths of internal and external worlds.  With this skillful poet, the reader gladly and without a moment’s hesitation “yield[s] to a wide arc” and flies on the back of a horse, jumping a quarry.

But more than the beauty and fragility of nature is woven throughout this poet’s lyrical tapestry.  Woven as well are those mystical moments when lovers lying side by side feel themselves part of the greater mystery, like “volcanoes rising out of their own flame.”

By inviting the reader to visit some of Earth’s most beautiful places, as well as to revisit some of the darker moments of our collective history,  this collection of lyrical poems shines light into the cavernous darkness of our troubled times.  More than just about losing, these poems encourage us to allow such visible creatures and invisible spirits “soar[ing] and div[ing[ into the glow of minarets” to light our way as we find courage to walk – and sometimes fly – on.

In her poem entitled “Irises,” the poet ends with these lines:

The impress of my palms

washes away.

Surely this will not be the case in regards to this, her second, collection of poetry.


Published in Cider Press Review, Volume 19, Issue 1.

Diana WoodcockDiana Woodcock is the author of two full-length collections of poetry, most recently Under the Spell of a Persian Nightingale. Her first, Swaying on the Elephant’s Shoulders, won the 2010 Vernice Quebodeaux International Women’s Poetry Prize.  Her third, Tread Softly, is forthcoming from FutureCycle Press.  Her seventh chapbook, Near the Arctic Circle, is forthcoming from Tiger’s Eye Press.

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