A subtitle for this collection of expertly crafted verse might be “A Memoir in Poetry.” Angela Alaimo O’Donnell has arranged the poems so that they loosely follow the chronology of her life. First come the dark memories of a grimly loveless childhood in the coal-mining region of Scranton, Pennsylvania.
Wendell Berry has lived as a farmer and writer in Kentucky for a quarter century. In his fiction, essays and poetry, he often meditates on the human relation to the earth. His poem “The Slip” is precipitated by a disaster. A river bank has given way, leaving an acre of farmland swallowed by water.
Wislawa Szymborska, a Nobel Prize winner, makes poetry out of unusual materials: lists of instructions, clothes items, apologies or questions. Her tone can be wry or playful or chilling. Her purpose is to shake us awake to how human history gets assembled from the smallest movements—impulsive or thoughtful, random or rational—of our minds and hearts.