The Tender, Wild Things
by Diane Jarvenpa
“An uncanny northern magic flows from the pages of The Tender Wild Things, at once earthy, celestial, and deeply mythic. Diane Jarvenpa’s book is, to quote one of her poems, “a giant humidor of words and images.” Ah, but what words, what images! These wonderful poems, musical to their core, drive unerringly toward the higher intensities of incantation and spell.” -Thomas R. Smith, author of Waking Before Dawn
“From the first lines of The Tender Wild Things, you’ll know you’re in the hands of a master chanteuse and poet. Among the most magnificent of these poems about family and place are those written to the mother, whose bonds to the poet are made of light and song, tradition and language. That the women share a Finnish heritage, that their paths often led through woods, gives the poems flavor and a particularity; that they sing from the heart makes the poems into the “small planets” we all live on. Reading… Wild Things is experiencing that sweet delight in finding another book to fall in love with.” -Sharon Chmielarz, The Rhubarb King
“Our human hungers for motion, knowledge, connection, and art are revealed as necessary and inevitable through the precision of a biologist’s careful observation rendered in the stunning language and virtuosic metaphor of a consummate poet… This is a wonderful book and a gorgeous journey not to be missed.” -Lee Ann Roripaugh, author of Year of the Snake
Sketchbook of the Trapper’s Wife
When I’m alone and have time on my hands
I flatten birch skins between warm stones
and sketch with alder, bloodroot and wild plum.
This is the pine out front standing roots in sand,
marsh grass softened by mouths of birds,
the river struck gold by sun death.
Here, this is where we skied the log trails
in the lung-piercing scatter of snow
and this is when the summer windstorm
flung trees into broken bones.
Farther on there is wild rice from the wet month
we had to walk the beaver dam and a feather from
the time the eagle sat sick for days in the dead aspen.
On these pages I stopped drawing altogether.
Winter sat heavy, long black nights, banked with clouds.
I cut disks from cottonwood twigs, glued them
with pine pitch. Stars for the long empty nights.
Here we spilled the chokecherry wine,
trout jumped all day, the full bladders of toads
sang of midsummer, a stray cow wandered over
from a far-off field. I slept in a hedge of bindweed.
These pages are the dead.
Raccoon, rabbit, muskrat, gray fox, deer,
turtle, pheasant, beaver, bear.
And these pages are the future;
no jackknives, no pelts hanging in the sun,
no ungainly speech or artless mourning,
only mounds of snow, clean and waiting
for the steelheads, for the slippery elm,
for the greening of nettles,
for all that stinks and chafes and blinds,
for all that breaks open in the chest and sings.
The Tender Wild Things received first prize in poetry from the Midwest Independent Publishers Assocation Book Awards.
“The poems in The Tender Wild Things follow in the footsteps of traditional Minnesota poets by loving the land, no matter where the poet is…”