One Bent Twig

Tricia Knoll
FutureCycle Press ($15.95)

by George Longenecker

Tricia Knoll’s newest collection One Bent Twig is all about trees, the natural world, regrowth, and contemplation. Images fall one after the other like leaves in autumn. These are skillfully crafted poems, interwoven so each one speaks to the others. 

Knoll has connected with trees since she was a child: “I was a baby who grew up next to an elm tree / my father planted to shade my bedroom window.” In “Funeral in the Forest,” she eulogizes ancient maples “with tapping scars, stumps of lost limbs, and brown ridges”:

You stood here through Abenaki’s land claims,
cholera epidemics, Jim Crow, Hurricane Irene.
World wars. Women and the vote. Sap flowed . . .

Knoll writes with the best of poet-naturalists. Her personification of trees is reminiscent of Robert Frost’s “Tree at my Window.”  Her poems use various voices; in “You Never Forget the First Trees You Love,” she speaks to her younger self: “You used branches to climb higher / than authorities said you could / for the silence of the ash confessional.” And many poems are rich in metaphor: “At their feet, cast-off blouses, skirts and veils—crumpled / summer, last landings of a headband of leaves // . . . // turbans of snow under a horned moon.”

In “Faith,” Knoll speaks of a deeply rooted spirituality with humor and irony:

I am not the rib-bone
of an apple-chomping Adam.

The smell of apple blossom
promises pies and peels

I do not fear snakes.
I wear no sackcloth

bindings, white robes,
or a cross on a bronze chain.

One Bent Twig is a worthy addition to the poetry of trees. Not only does Knoll sow words; she also plants actual seeds: “I have planted forty-five trees, with hope / that each wears its crown in a grace.”

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