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Minnesota Poetry

November 16, 2007

This week, I just finished reading Kirsten Dierking’s second book, Northern Oracle. The book is lovely, spare, and very Minnesotan, in a good way.

The book is framed in two ways. Most importantly, she is exploring her Sami ancestry, so she uses quotes from the Sami poet Nils-Aslak Valkeapaa as epigraphs for each section. These quotes inform the reading of the entire section. The second framing device is a tacit relationship with nature.

Her four sections move from a deep relationship with nature outward to the material world and back again. The Animist and Fragile Organics, the first two sections, are rooted in natural imagery, weather, animals, plants. The third section, “Unstable,” speaks to the experiences after 9/11 and how the country (and the narrator) have changed. The final section, The Path Homeward, speaks to the narrator’s home life and how she integrates pain, change, tragedy and personal nature.

I like two things about this book. Often there are some poets who seem to stretch for vocabulary, to awe you with their understanding of Really Big Words. Dierking is not from that school of thought. In fact, she uses the common simple words really well, pulling on their physical resonances to craft her images. Secondly, this book feels very Minnesotan. By that, I mean there is a conflicted relationship with nature within an semi-urban environment that seems very appropriate to the subject matter. Sometimes, us Minnesotans like to write about how tough we are in relationship to weather and how lucky we are to have these extreme conditions. Dierking shows the beauty in nature and how integrated it is into our modern lives. This is so hard to do without sounding folksy or fake.

I think this book needs a second reading and after a few months, maybe when winter sets in, I’ll revisit it. However, my first impression is that I love it and that it should be read. So go buy it!

  1. poet with a day job permalink
    November 16, 2007 6:13 pm

    J – your reviews are great. you ought to try:

  2. ...deb permalink
    November 17, 2007 11:08 pm

    I’ll add this to my getting-longer book list.

    If you are looking for (probably what is for you a quick) meme for NaBloPoMo go here:

    stoney moss: Three things I think good writing should be–A Meme

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