SMALL FEATHER by Jade Rosina McCutcheon, reviewed by John Van Dreal

Finishing Line Press, 2020, 40 pages, $14.99
ISBN: ‎ 1646622901
Available at

The cover of Jade Rosina McCutcheon’s chapbook immediately caught my eye. Within a kaleidoscope of doodled line and color, a thought bubble speaking for the soul of the work declares, I AM Still Here. Within a few hours, I was at the book’s end, where the last poem “Into Green,” sings: 

into the stream, out of the dream 
she answered: ‘here I am’.

SMALL FEATHER begins with a joyous birth of energy in “Australian Bush Solstice” as McCutcheon introduces the grandeur of an evening in her homeland: 

	Our revelry bounces off full moon light 
	flashes between stampeding clouds  
	as a summer storm excites the air  
	crackling the blue-green gums. 

From there, the poet ambles through splendidly descriptive words, doodle drawings, and atmospheric black-and-white photos to the last page, where she concludes in “Into Green”:

	A journey ended, yet begun  
	a spider’s web is still being spun,  
	around, within, the frog still sings 
 	inside the forest green, there spins....
						a dream.

Surrounded by the textures, smells, and tastes of the Governor’s Cup coffee house, McCutcheon and I chatted about her life and work. Her accent and diction are delightful distractions, making almost everything she says both lyrical and engaging. She sees herself as just one person––a small feather in a collective—but also a witness, awake and observing. McCutcheon is academically accomplished, with two doctoral degrees and books on performance and consciousness. SMALL FEATHER is her first chapbook of poetry.
A resident of Australia until she relocated to the U.S. 20 years ago, she spends her days moongazing, writing, drawing, playing music, and engaging in numerous constructive activities, including social work, feminist studies, and supporting survivors of abuse. 
Her work is deeply fused to her connections with people, the land, and the cosmos. The Australian terrain and its people spoke to her, spiritually and aesthetically, but when she moved to the States, she lost touch with those sources of inspiration. It took journeys to California’s Mt. Shasta and the Dorland Mountain Arts Community, Salem’s Minto Brown Island Park, and the Oregon coast, combined with her volunteer crisis work, to find the audible frequency of the American experience that now inspires her craft. 
In her poem “Turquoise,” she writes:

	Sun deep carmine
	falls into dusty 
	orange light
	sweet cumin 
	smells dance
	spilling upon
	all the life
	in that house
	coming together
	deep inside
	the violet scented

I may or may not have mentioned to her that those words might be fun to experience with a micro dose of psilocybin, but she certainly did tell me her intention in writing the passage was to create something fabulously imaginative and descriptive.
Her poems range from surreal and dreamy to the metaphysical, then to intensely insightful and boldly, but beautifully, tragic. In “After,” she writes of finding a dead sparrow: 

	I am weeping outside,    
	under the stars
	as though
        the bird
	were you
	small feather
	on the hardwood 
	a sudden gust
	and you’re

McCutcheon may see herself as a small feather, but her poetic voice is a grand plumage. 
John Van Dreal lives in Salem and is a member of the Mid-Valley Poetry Society. He can be reached at [email protected].

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