In McCullough’s Roost, Susan These poetically explores elements of the common patterns in life: birth, death, motherhood, family, and the bond of friendship. She uses her own experiences as the subject matter for her poems, and her verses look backward and forward along her own line of personal history.
Many of her poems are reminiscences and take on a nostalgic wistfulness for times gone by. In “Remember When,” she exhorts her brother to recollect “…having chestnut fights in the/backyard while using garbage-can lids as our shields/Climbing the cherry tree and eating all the cherries.” Other poems express the author’s love for friends and family members: “Minnie May, Minnie May, what can we say/Except that we love you in every way.” The author also grapples with death and loss in several of her poems and tries to find solace in religion: “When you lose a child and you feel your heart may break,” she states, “just remember the Lord giveth and taketh away.”
The majority of These’s poems are organized in quatrains with varying rhythmic combinations. The author takes a traditional approach to rhyming and sometimes sacrifices clarity in order to achieve similar sounds at the end of her lines. Hence the reader must puzzle over the image of a “church with open sores,” so that the author may complete an end rhyme with the word “doors.”
She also tends to dilute the power of her verse through the overuse of abstract terms. Wonderful images, such as a beetle that decides “to hitch a ride,” get lost among the prevalence of generalities. Consequently, although it is clear that the poems of McCullough’s Roost are heartfelt and sincere, they are, for the most part, the work of a poet who has yet to achieve an authentic and compelling voice.
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