Book Review: Wayfinding


The full title — Wayfinding: Poetry celebrating America’s parks and public lands — really tells you everything you need to know about this book.  Will you like the book? Umm…

I started the book two years ago. At the time, it wasn’t for me. I put it down. It gathered dust.

But then… this year, as part of letting go of the past and getting through “the stack,” I picked it back up and discovered a new appreciation for it, and remembered my enthusiasm when I saw it in the bookstore and thought, “Poetry inspired by National Parks? Sign me up!”

The title struck me as particularly apt, as I am finding my way to “my kind of poetry.” Blank verse isn’t normally my thing. I like rhymes. I like structure. I actually like sonnets. I like writing sonnets. Curious? Try this one.

(Tangent: consider that link foreshadowing of posts to come. I’ve been working on a bunch more poems telling obscure National Park history in sonnet form. “A bunch.” I can do better than that! I’m not a rube. “A quiver?” Hmm, no, they aren’t arrows. “A cycle?” I think that’s right. At least, righter than my other poor choice of words… A poet should use good grammar, dontcha think?)

And yet! I found myself enjoying the stories in these poems. Tone. Language. It’s like I’m acquiring an adult palate; maybe by Thanksgiving I’ll even get to sit at the adult table.

Here are my favorite lines in this volume:

….When I look at it now
it fills me with both joy and sadness.
Not break your heart level sadness but emotionally sad.
Joy because of taking a chance, trusting a decision
and knowing there’s beauty everywhere.
Sadness because the mountains remind me of Colorado
and when I mean it reminds me of Colorado
I mean it reminds me of The Rocky Mountains
because it is The Rocky Mountains.

~ from “Sawtooth Mts” by Jack C. Buck

That reminds me of the only poem that ever sticks with me, John Berryman’s Dream Song 14 — accessible but still mysterious, lyrical but funny, tells a story but leaves you wanting more….

On that note, I will wrap this up with two more links.

Parks & Points — The website behind the book Wayfinding (same editors). Also, a fantastic resource for all things National Park and Poetry related.

National Park Poetry by State — State by state! I love lists like this!

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