The Poetry Box
2017, 73 pp, $12.00
On her web site, www.triciaknoll.com, Tricia Knoll speaks of herself in the third person. She is a tree hugging . . . Master Gardener who routinely talks to crows who ignore her. She also calls herself an eco-poet. In the opening line of “The Klickitats,” the first selection in Broadfork Farm, she says, I’m a farmsitter, once or twice a year, a few weeks. The farm is across the river from Mt. Hood and about 20 miles north near the village of Trout Lake. And there you have the setting and the character who inhabits these pieces.
In “Buddha Nestled in White and Pink Sweet Peas on the Fencepost at Broadfork Gate,”
Knoll says of the Broadfork Farm,
The farm is not for everyman.
In the old house, there’s no white sugar,
no microwave and when the first money
slapped down for land, no tractor, just a U-bar
digging fork with as many tines
as a March hare has fancies and that
was how it would be.
Those lines, like most of the selections in this volume, are the kind of free verse that could as well be prose. Expect no prosody here except for the thoughts and images broken into lines with no discernable aesthetic or logic. Perhaps read aloud by the author, the breaks would be justified by the reading; but this is a book, not a recording.
Two of Knoll’s pieces are written in traditional prose paragraphs, “Gloucestershire Old Spots” about visiting kids who are fascinated by pigs and “An Uncommon Prayer for the Farm,” which is more like a spoken hymn to the life and death, hardships and rewards of farm life than it is a prayer in any familiar sense.
What distinguishes these meditations about farm life and nature from so much contemporary “poetry” is their directness. Knoll does not struggle for novel metaphors. She doesn’t try to pass off obscurity as mysticism or intellect. She is almost always immediately intelligible. A reader can even learn a few lessons about animal husbandry and gardening.
The 37 poems in the 50 pages of text and photos are vignettes of farm life and surrounding nature. The photographs are nice companions to the writing, but not particularly good compositions or well reproduced. Together they capture the author’s love of the area and of this small organic farm that nourishes her body and soul.
Readers who know Knoll’s political writing – main line feminism and anti-Trump – won’t find it here. She writes in “Left with the Care,”
The banty rooster’s strident call
is light years from grinding war, spinning news,
suspicions of sects and warring politicians.
Broadfork Farm is her retreat from all that. Or, as she concludes in “An Uncommon Prayer for the Farm,” it is Repair of gratitude.
Urban readers will find here a usually gentle window into a certain kind of rural life. It may inspire the desire to get “back to the land” that inspires so many Woofers and some refugees from high stress jobs.
Newport writer Wallace Kaufman has written several books, including Coming Out of the Woods (Perseus Books), a memoir of 22 years in a North Carolina forest. He is an award-winning science writer who has published poetry in the US and England in magazines that include Encounter, Agenda, Carcanet, Oxford Today, and Carolina Quarterly. His fiction has appeared in Sewanee Review, Encounter, Redbook, Mademoiselle, and North American Review. His latest book is FOXP5: A Genomic Mystery Novel (Springer International, 2016) co-authored with astrobiologist and biomolecular engineer David Deamer. He recently taught Poetry for Everyone at Oregon Coast Community College.