Reviewed by Susan Morris
A collection of inspiring and lively songs about life and love and beauty
The songs in Sugar the blueberries Compose a rich, smooth and powerful phrase to offer readers a glimpse into the soul. Joan Peck Arnold, a self-proclaimed wordsmith, invites readers to her metaphorical home, built with strong sensory imagery, beautiful rhythm and lots of heart.
The collection is displayed by connection, “Writing poetry in the 1980s and beyond”, Which presents the author’s journey as a poet and explains her approach to poetry, inspired by that of Emily Dickinson:
“Tell the whole truth but tell it with a tendency …
Her line, “My busy mind scared me off a first song at sixty-three,” It is a window into the soul of a poet, who writes not for the sake of fame or recognition but out of necessity and satisfaction. This collection of poems is accessible to any reader seeking a journey into the soul of a poet.
Sugar the blueberries Blends ambiguity with emotion as she considers the bright freedom of youthful promises and invites the past to capture experiences, regrets and wisdom. Joan Peck Arnold thickens eighty years of life for honest and touching poetry. You know what disappointments are likely to come and wish the pages would tell a different story. The first group of songs crosses a whole life, from dreams and wishes, to lessons and disappointments, wisdom, aging and the next world. The second set begins with an early loss, how one life ends and another begins, and ends with some of the life invested in observation.
That’s what they’re telling us not to do,
Cross the bridge before we reach it,
Pile more dirt on molehills.
Peck invites readers to personal and poignant moments with universal themes and memorable poetics. A thread of stubbornness runs through the collection like Grandma’s warm hand. For anyone who has experienced a cancer diagnosis, this collection offers fraternity and hope.
Deep in the night of her life
She catches me with her own power,
Pleads, ‘Life is hard, darling,
Then dance. ‘
Unforgettable lines fill this thin volume: Ben recalls making blueberry pudding with his mother “A taste of time he will never have again.” Two lovers are shown as “A pair of sailboats, fluttering downstream.” The afterlife is considered with the line “Is the back of the moon surrounded by circular vortices?” A pacemaker is depicted with a live emotional subtext “Tucked inside your chest / Like a pack of cigarettes, / is the latest titanium device, / designed to last longer than you.”
Sugar the blueberries Fulfills the promise To tell the whole truth but to tell it with a tendencyThe tendency in this case is that of an optimistic view of the heaviest life challenges.
Whim we skate and surf and laugh
Right in the snow of early January:
We want to do one last round before
The ice is coming – the forecast is now bleak –
And this is how we behave.
Readers will like Peck’s light-hearted grace and be thrilled when the collection reaches its closing pages. I have seldom seen a poet so eloquently convey a consequential emotion.
Publisher: June Road Press
Print length: 84 pages
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