Winter Solstice: A Memoir in Poetry
by Diana Howard
Atmosphere Press

"Mother is the chickadee
Mother is the hawk
and still matriarch of all"

Reading the poems in this collection is like running one's fingers over elegant lace and tracing every pattern slowly and carefully to absorb each stitch. Readers encounter powerful reflections about motherhood, nature, the painful crawl towards death and death acceptance, and the grief that arrives afterward in the intimate places where all of these elements combine. In one poem, grief preys upon the living as the speaker declares, "in my mother's home / I cannot feel light on my feet." In another, the smallest atoms of a person's existence bump and collide, reminding readers that what one leaves behind after they are gone tells its own story: "to a landscape overgrown / with ivy and flowering ajuga / English novels and Italian sheet music." Readers then take a journey into the horrific ravages of dementia: "Her music will be the last thing to go because it is what she / knows best."

This collection is confessionalist in subject matter but transcendentalist in its imagery. Readers will find that the Zen-like reflections and the speaker's reliance upon nature are a beautiful blend. Poems like "Orion's Belt" offer hope: "trusting the moon's shadow, / appreciating the mystery / of beginnings and endings." Other poems such as "Cape Horn" become a metaphor for surviving loss and grief: "Truth will wind its way / through crevasses bubbling / up over gathering sediment." All the while, the verses in this book remind readers that despite the difficulties, traumas, and grief that life so often offers, one must celebrate their unique existence. Seasoned poetry readers will find traces of Mary Oliver in this book, and those readers living with loved ones suffering from dementia will find a place of comfort and understanding in this work.

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