On the day I contacted J.C. Hallman to ask if…
Unrest is an edgy social commentary that expertly blends nature with the chaos of human life. Poet and Master Gardener, Joanna Rawson can look into the fury of a garden with all its encroaching weeds, buzzing wasps, and bold blooms and find a connection to almost anything.
Joanna Rawson Reading
Friday, September 11
Common Good Books, 165 Western Ave North Ste 14, St. Paul MN 55102
The poems are filled with brutal emotion and a starkness that can be beautiful. The stand-out piece “Kill-Box” deals with Mexican immigrants hoping to find a better life across the border, but instead coming to a fatal end in the careless hands of a coyote. Rawson flashes scenes of what their death may have been like and mingles them with the wild sanctuary that exists in a run-down garden landscape.
One reason for bothering at all is fireflies, which defibrillate the wrecked shrubs and rise from the understory like turbo-candles, in flames.”
– pg 13
Each verse in Unrest demands to be read more than once and while praise for the enormity of subjects like the smuggling of illegal immigrants, suicide bombers, and war is justified, poems like “Wind Camp”, “Doorway, with Citizen”, and “Accordingly” give us refreshing views of mundane life.
She studies the grain of the wood. Notes its flaws.
The behind is closed, the ahead is not yet opened – at this moment, just a short while into the fray, she's free of any consequence.
Of course it's summer.”
– pg 49
One poem that faltered was “Four Seasons Read The Cloud of Unknowing to One Landscape”. There is an uncharacteristic preachy tone to it and sections that seem a little outside Rawson's comfort zone, but when she pulls back to her natural style there are some superb verses. For example, page 26 gives us these two lyrical phrases: “…the pulse mimics crickets, until the chain-lightning stops their circulation of iambic song here in this crook of quartz-fraught rocks,” and “…hear the rats at the roots of the wild beets in the ditch, and the soft crushing of box turtles on the warm tar in far-off traffic…”
Vivid, nature-aided description is what makes Rawson's poetry so potent. Unrest is bound to shake your perception and that is exactly the intent.