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Volume 39.2
Summer 2008

book review:

Desert Hours
by Marian Olson

Reviewed by Majorie Buettner

Desert Hours, by Marian Olson (Northfield, Mass.: Lily Pool Press, 2007). 105 pages, 5  x 8 . Matte color card covers; perfectbound. ISBN 978-0-934714-35-8. $20.00 from Collected Works Bookstore, 208B West San Francisco St, Santa Fe, NM 87501 or at <collectedworksbookstore.com>

Learning to Listen

Pascal has said it is always important to keep something beautiful in your mind. For Marian Olson, the deserts of north central New Mexico have become her place of beauty, and Desert Hours is a collection of haiku that pays homage to that beauty. The desert is a landscape that, for Olson, informs and nourishes the heart; it is an entity not inert or lifeless but vibrant and insistent. Olson, with an adept ear, pure voice and visionary eye, embraces this landscape with reverence for detail. The desert then becomes a mythical place housed by mystic Kokopelli, ancient stones, and rivers that sing. It is a landscape that finds its home in the recesses of the poet’s heart as well:

unhurried
the white rose releases
sweet petals

There is a symbiotic relationship between the poet and her environment:

August moon
the cricket throb
in me too

It is a symbiotic relationship that unites the inner and the outer:

birds shift
in the moody sky
one body, one mind

For those wild things that inhabit this desert environment, there is an equilibrium that the poet observes and captures:

the bird soars
shaping sunlight
into hawk wings

river’s song
a wounded turtle
slips into it

On a more personal level, these haiku carry a sense of farewell with them. Even topographically there is a sense of retreat, of falling back:

even clouds
        touch and part
                I remind myself

stars
        before letting go
letting go

The poet is wise in the realization that life turns through partings, as Rilke suggested, and we participate in that cycle of life:

so soon
   to come
  and go
first spring

Life is fragile and fleeting; the poet says this in so many different ways:

he throws kisses
        and drives away
morning moon

some things
can never be shared
winter moon

Olson is familiar with solitude, too, and her haiku reflect a reverence for quiet:

silent now
the cathedral bell
        collects
evening snowflakes

sparks of snow dust
fly in the wind
I’m learning to listen

Here Olson is an adept student teaching us, as well, how to listen:

summer night
I lay aside my book
and listen

After learning to listen, take up this book once again and pass it along to a friend for it is worth sharing; it is an oasis:

        oasis —

    a pot of tea
and some poems
    between us

• • •

 

 

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