In this diverse collection, poet-teacher-artwear designer Tracey Gass Ranze explores different styles and subjects, ranging from a sweet memoir poem about a note of praise from her third-grade teacher to a scathing prose protest of White House war policy. In six chapters – “Storm Farmer,” “Butterfly Wings,” “September Mourning,” “Crows Into Night,” “Water Bearer,” and “Mountain Home” – Gass Ranze addresses the broad subjects of farm life, a mother’s death, war and 9/11, love, mysticism, and wilderness.
In addition to variations in topic and tone, her poetic expression includes many forms, such as pantoum, sonnet, villanelle, and ekphrastic poetry. The author displays wide-ranging talent, using keen observation, sharp imagery, careful construction, and deliberate word choice to craft each poem. Gass Ranze has worked with writers groups, publications, and performance venues during the past 30 years, and her experience and attention to detail is reflected in this collection.
Although gems appear throughout the book, the first and final chapters provide the most distinctive images and seem closest to the author’s heart. Eloquent and sensual, the title poem draws artistic inspiration from a violent storm. Also lovely – and with a touch of humor – are “river debris” (“I have fun calling this glinty gift from the garbage-gods, my recycled Ohio River debris”) and “Nightgown” (“Gown grown old with curling yellowing eyelet lace mends on faded flower face worn to torn cozy friend now helps me dust my bookends.”)
The mountain wilderness poems offer more somber, though equally beautiful, slices of country life, such as in “early,” where “she wakes at dawn hearing Canada geese honking in flight through the hazy morning mist” and the concluding poem “evening drapes,” which provides a fitting ending to the nature-based chapter as well as the collection.
Storm Farmer should delight any poetry lover, but especially those with ties to rural communities.
Also available in hardcover and ebook.