December Poetry Pick: Woman with Crows

Woman with Crowsruth-thompsonRuth Thompson’s first full length collection of poems, Woman with Crows, is a collection of place.  Readers first flipping through its pages, may recognize some of these places, even if they have not visited the depicted locations in their own lives.  We see old farm horses and the last dragonflies of the season.  We see the rolling hills of western New York and the landscape of Hawaii.  Indeed, Thompson’s images are so vivid that all a reader’s senses may kick in.  For instance, in “Fireworks” we hear the Fourth of July celebrations through the “rap thud and rocket/whine, and the spit of firecrackers.”  And in “Tradewind Rain” we feel the wind of a storm when  “Noise takes the house/the way a wave will take a thing/and leave it mindless.”

Still, there are other places as well.  In many of her poems, Thompson revisits old fairy tales and images of mythology and folklore we thought we knew well.  In “The Mermaid Sings” we hear song through “coiled muscle ripples” and in “The Real Story” the readers are treated to a vivid retelling of Grimms Cinderella where “It is reported by the castle press agent/that the stepsisters have cut off their toes/to fit inside a glass slipper/leaving a trail of blood behind their horses/by which they have been discovered.”

Most importantly, however, Thompson’s book is about the places we travel in our lives. Many times,  these places are revealed in narratives and memories.  For instance, in the poem “In My Grandmother’s Garden”  an unnamed narrator remembers working with her grandmother, saying “Each year I was taken/I wonder how I might have rooted, had I stayed.”  In perhaps my favorite poem in the collection, “Wise to Cinderella,”  Thompson combines her love of fairy tales with a distinct memory of a childhood friend and their playdates: “We dressed in women’s clothes/tried them on for size. No tulle or glass slippers/though we’d gone for a spangle or two/had anything shiny been in the box.”  The poem then briefly traces their lives through clothes ending with two women, fifty years later, looking at the camera: “No Cinderellas, just wiseacre heroines–/short on the spangles, shining like stars.”

Woman with Crows was a finalist for the AROHO Foundation To the Lighthouse Poetry Book Prize in 2010.  For more information about Woman with Crows, visit Ruth Thompson’s website here.


  1. Enjoyed this–how you described place/place-mixing in the review. Looks like a wonderful book.

  2. kweyant Said:

    Kathleen, I think I often (falsely) define place as physical location, which is not always correct.

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