The Great Hunt and Other Poems, by Patty Wixon, reviewed by Paulann Petersen

The Great Hunt and Other Poems by Patty Wixon
Cyclone Press, 2021, 50 pages, $12.00
ISBN: 979-8-515859-73-2
Available at Amazon or Bloomsbury Books in Ashland
(For a signed copy and free shipping, please order directly from the author at [email protected])

Patty Wixon’s collection The Great Hunt and Other Poems begins with a poem in which wildfire smoke dissolves/the sun…leaving the day black.  In the final poem, a bright star flickers before sliding behind a lifting sunrise. Indeed, Wixon’s poems move back and forth freely from darkness to light, from past to present, from joy to sorrow, from catastrophe to blessings.

Between the first and last poems, readers are invited into the many places the poet lived or traveled, her work emerging from such diverse sites as Greece and Oregon and Alaska and Florida and Taiwan and the Himalayas. Her poems reflect and embrace a life lived fully and richly, one characterized by the keen and unflinching attention she pays to each and every world in which she has found herself. Human violence, wrenching divorce, pandemic sequestering, cultural extinction, beloved classic literature, the balm of the natural world: Wixon embraces them all.

Personal and family history play a strong role in her work, and nowhere is that strength more evident than in poems about family members, ones such as the following homage titled “Why Grandma Votes.”

She took advanced math classes in high school,
       the only girl in the room. The counselor said,
       If you want a job, choose nursing or teaching
Art or Home Ec, not Math.

After school she worked at Bullock’s Shoe Store,
       memorized the stock, how to measure, stood tall,
       stiff-spine when men backed out the door saying,
       I’ll come back later for a man to help me.

Summers swimming she beat boys in races,
       but college water teams had no women so she joined
       synchronized swimming, held three-minute breaths
       for spinning water wheels circling three or four times.

       The only woman in fly fishing class, she missed an “A”
       in the final—not knowing Johnson was the leading brand
       of outboard motors—but earned it back casting a dry fly
       half the length of the football field.

The lone woman among those students, she makes an astonishing one-hundred-and-fifty-foot cast! This A-earning grandma is irresistible, and the poet’s admiration for her courage and tenacity are irresistible too.

Yes, Wixon gives this grandma her due, paying tribute to her, just as each poem in this collection pays its tribute to the admirable qualities of the woman who wrote it. Curious, insightful, compassionate, open to whimsy and delight, Patty Wixon writes poems that gladly open themselves to each reader lucky enough to encounter them. The last poem of The Great Hunt (that lifting sunrise poem) is a litany of blessings. In it, Wixon calls for a number of blessings, including ones for falling maple leaves, for the warmth of a loved-one’s hand, for pipes filled with hot water when the weather is cold. When she asks that writers whose words lay a path toward hope be blessed, we echo her. As her grateful readers, we ask that she be blessed for her words, for her poems that open—to all of us—their pathways toward hope.

Reviewer’s Bio:

Paulann Petersen, Oregon Poet Laureate Emerita, has seven full-length books of poetry, most recently One Small Sun, from Salmon Poetry in Ireland. A Stegner Fellow at Stanford University, she received the 2006 Holbrook Award from Oregon Literary Arts. In 2013 she was Willamette Writers’ Distinguished Northwest Writer. The Latvian composer Eriks Esenvalds chose a poem from her book The Voluptuary as the lyric for a choral composition that’s now part of the repertoire of the Choir at Trinity College Cambridge. www.paulann.net

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