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Volume 37.1
Winter Spring 2006

book review: "Complex Echoes"

North Lake
by Ce Rosenow

reviewed by Michael Dylan Welch

North Lake by Ce Rosenow (Hillsboro, Ore.: Mountain Gate Press, 2004). North Lake by Ce Rosenow (Hillsboro, Ore.: Mountain Gate Press, 2004). North Lake 72 pages, 5.5 x 8.5, perfectbound, letterpress (by Swamp Press). ISBN 0-9643357-1-9. $15.00 postpaid from the author at 815 E 28th Ave, Eugene, OR 97405.

One can be drawn back to a book because it is a thing of beauty — a finely crafted object with tactile effects from its paper stock, colors, and weight. One can be drawn back to a book because of the tone of the place to which it takes you — the feeling of satisfaction, contentment, or an amplification of some lonely or exalted sense of where you were, or were moved to, when you first consumed the book. Ce Rosenow’s North Lake is such a book, and it is easy to be drawn back to North Lake is such a book, and it is easy to be drawn back to North Lake it. It is a finely crafted object, yes — letterpress refinements of laudable pleasure. The poems, too, are finely crafted — individual and sequenced haiku that appear unassuming yet linger like a robust wine on the tongue and in one’s nostrils. One feels not just the taste of individual poems but the underlying and complex echoes from poem to poem as flowers, birds, the moon, and water in various forms reappear throughout the book — made different each time by the varying way in which objective wind casts its subjective ripples.

the water’s surface
broken
a fisherman casts in the rain

The word “broken” in this opening poem from the Spring section slows the reader down, not just for the sake of this poem, but for the entire book. We are subtly brought to attention, like the fisherman casting his line, as we break the surface of the book by entering it. Yet is it us as readers who have broken the surface, or is the natural world already doing that, like the rain upon the water, and we are merely there to witness it? North Lake is a place in Washington state, a little south of Seattle. It is where the author grew up, a place that has “shaped the poet,” as Phyllis Walsh says in the afterword. As Walsh notes, Ce Rosenow is “not only a sensitive observer ... but interacts with the natural world she inhabits.” These poems are records of that interaction, records, as Walsh also notes, that “take on the quality of rituals.” The sense of ritual arises from reverence and recurrence, most prominently evidenced by water appearing in more than a third of the book’s sixty poems.

wind in the pampas grass
               the rowboat strains
      against its mooring

cleaning trout
in the late day heat—
blood beneath his nails

deepening with nightfall
    waves
against the fishing boat’s bow

Rosenow quotes a poem by Cid Corman to begin the Autumn section, in which he declares that “Water is a shrine.” Indeed, we can sense a reverence for water throughout this book, and it extends to the way the common and everyday is worshipped by each poem, regardless of subject. Flowers and birds also recur prominently (each about ten or so times). Here is one of each:

my yard
my neighbor’s yard
camellia blossoms fall into each

limbing the fir—
eagle’s perch
falls to the ground

Yet, as shown by these two poems, other themes recur—in this case, falling, a return to the earth—beyond the surface subjects of flowers or birds.

The echo could be loss or absence, as in these poems paired on the same page:

Christmas Eve—
hanging her ornaments
without her

missing you—
windows rattle
with the wind

Or the subject could echo after a separation of many pages:

striking a match
to another candle
All Hallow’s Eve

power outage—
vanilla candles
dripping wax

Or it could be the shape of the poem that satisfies by judicious repetition:

crocus
bud

its
tremble
beneath

rain
drops

mini
a
ture
rose

dew
drop
on

its
petal

first
sky
stars
fad-
ing
into
dawn

Whatever the echoes, they often lie beneath the surface of the poems’ objective descriptions, and also echo within us as readers, resounding with our own experience, our own memories of time and place that are as personal for us as North Lake is for Ce Rosenow. Fortunately, North Lake is never too personal that we cannot enter, and once within, the poems often compel us to plunge well beneath the surface. As Phyllis Walsh observes, “The reader comes to feel North Lake is not only an appealing place to visit in these haiku, but to embrace in one’s own inner space.” Enter this book once and you will be readily drawn to enter it again to hear its complex echoes.

 

 

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