Sunday, July 31, 2011

Linda Benninghoff's Snowy Winter (Book Review) by J.S. Watts

Snowy Winter by Linda Benninghoff is an elegant edition from the Pudding House Chapbook Series. Its nineteen poems offer an elegiac meditation upon the endings of life, both in terms of the human lifespan and the natural cycles of the world surrounding us.

The collection begins with the title poem Snowy Winter, which recalls domestic memories, beginning with the haunting image,

“the praying silence
of the pots in the kitchen”

via April recollections of jogging and mango juice, round to winters “which are like a world shutting down” when the poet, hungry for company, is forced to search “for the prints of winter birds” in the snow.

The poems that follow explore memory and ageing, illness, dying and death, while drawing poignantly upon images of snow and winter, animals and birds, and the juxtaposition of wild nature and domesticity.

“Curving gulls” soar through more than one poem, while other birds are only present via the prints they leave behind them in the snow. In Going For Chemo the washed pots are once again silent and there is a striking image of a dead gull “flat like paper on the causeway”, whilst elsewhere

“the teapot
made a sound
I remembered
long after that day,
a sound like robins praying.”

Images repeat and echo throughout the poems until the collection comes to a hopeful conclusion with the poem Rebirth. Here there has been death, but “The May air is everywhere - ” and it is winter that is the memory,

“Now roses surge
and life is like a temptation.”

The year has come full circle and hope is in the air. Nature, it seems, is telling us that snowy winters are just precursors to the new life of Spring.

Editor's Note: Snowy Winter by Linda Benninghoff is published by Pudding House Publications.

Author bio:

J.S. Watts' short stories, poetry and book reviews appear in a wide variety of publications in Britain, Canada, Australia and the States including Abandoned Towers, Acumen, Big Pulp, Danse Macabre, Hand + Star, Midwest Literary Review and Polluto and have been broadcast on BBC Radio. She is Poetry Reviews Editor for Open Wide Magazine and Poetry Editor of Ethereal Tales. Her debut poetry collection, Cats and Other Myths is published by Lapwing Publications. For further details please see her website: JS Watts.

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