Craig Carpenter Downer’s large collection of poems, journal entries, and essays, is the work of a devoted lifelong naturalist and adventurer. Much of the book is dedicated to his observations, insights, and experiences as a scholar of the natural world.
Downer’s poems are both rhyming and free verse. The wide-ranging topics include: the majesty of wild horses, the speaker’s time as a shaman, money, love, morality, a climb up Mount Shasta and more. The work exuberantly credits God as the source of truth and glory.
Many of the poems showcase Downer’s love of nature, such as “Seven Poems on The Spiritual Evolution”: “As a lad I was wont/ to fascinate upon diversity and multiplicity in life/ slick, energetic toads and newts,/ sleek fish, Heavenly birds, profoundly alive wild horses…”
This poem contains moments of vitality (“slick, energetic toads,” “sleek fish”). More often, however, the work comprises abstract ideas and language, rather than the sensory experience poetry readers expect. For example: “The inherent logic in the body/ is an adaptation for/ survival in this world/…” Or: “You know that Vain Science makes a ‘Religion’/ out of arrogant Materialism…”
Additionally, the poetry has an antiquated feel, with ample use of ancient language and syntax. “Thoughts on Bigfoot” begins, “Methinks Bigfoot is a superior man/ who liveth out in the wild/ as no modern man can…” “Twilight of the Gods?” is accompanied by a photo of a wild mustang and begins: “What a miracle/ To find you here!/ What vast ages/ Have together brought us now!/ […]/ -Oh! Ancient horse lineage!” Such language unnecessarily creates distance between the speaker and contemporary readers.
The essays are equally abstract, largely concerned with spiritual and philosophical issues. Selections from the author’s notebook include descriptions of nature and thoughts of philosophy and faith.
Those who espouse a God-centered view of the mysteries and wonder of nature might appreciate some of the poems in this expansive collection. Others are likely to feel alienated by the author’s abstractions and antiquated approach.
Also available as an ebook.