Litany of the Plants

J. Dan Paquette
Outskirts Press (2015)
ISBN 9781478760863
Reviewed by Susan Violante by Reader Views (01/16)

I picked up “Litany of the Plants” by J. Dan Paquette as I am not just an amateur gardener, but have also loved to be outdoors climbing trees, or just sitting on the ground under one, since I was a child, yet for some reason I have never included them in any of my own poems! I began reading very intrigued of what someone had to say on these silent creatures and found out that it was not about the plants, it was about what they inspired in the author.

I had mixed feelings about the book in general. Some of the vocabulary will not be understood by everyone, and the format of some poems was somewhat different and thus, to some extent, difficult to follow its flow on the first try. However, I found some poems truly spoke to me and stayed in my heart. Below is one of my favorites, which I love because it identifies with my love of gardening, but also I found it to flow in melody as I read it:

Side by Side

I’m tilling the soil so as to include
rows of potatoes, broccoli, and kale.

I’m puffing. My lungs rasp, louder
than the piercing of this stony soil,
scraping out that dandelion stubble,
Canadian thistle. Soil’s blackening.
Above, the puff’s of charcoal clouds,
airborne potatoes, hubbard squash.

Pitchfork strains to fold the bottom
of my foot, the ground meanwhile,
floats a familiar fungal odor, Woe
despondency of this day evaporate
in stillness, a nothingness of dusk,
my boot heel-to-toe, step onto fork.

Son shouts supper from the porch.
Comforting his preparation, soup’s
now ladled, peppered, buttery fish
steaming, hot noodles sesame. For
what we are, and about to receive,
what will soon rise from the earth.

Paquette shares, what in my opinion is a masterpiece in Side by Side, but because of the font selected (which was different from other poems), I had to re-read it a couple of times to appreciate it, as the ‘c’ looked like an ‘e’ throughout the poem. I am just mentioning this to encourage readers to re-read as the quality of the piece is worth the effort.

Overall, I enjoyed “Litany of the Plants” by J. Dan Paquette and have adopted a few of these poems as my all time favorites. I wish the author would have formatted and designed the interior in a way that would be easier to read so that all crowds could appreciate them.

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