Rainforest in Russet by Cynthia Sharp

[dropcap]I[/dropcap] met Cynthia Sharp at a Vancouver poetry reading. It may’ve been a gallery or a resto-pub. That part I no longer remember. What I do remember, however, is the depth of her reading, commitment to her craft. This is a writer through-and-through, a committed teacher of poetry as well as an accomplished novelist. Following another event, a fresh air showcase under a canopy of leafy deciduous, we met in a group for a post-reading happy hour that turned into six, then a sailor-like walk toward takeaway curry. [perfectpullquote align=”right” bordertop=”false” cite=”” link=”” color=”#EEC29D” class=”” size=”26″]”Cynthia Sharp’s Rainforest in Russet is a heartfelt walk into nature.”[/perfectpullquote] What I like most about this author’s readings is something I learned sometime later. Holding open a book before her, she rarely, in fact, is reading. She KNOWS her work. She’s learned it. It’s not recited – a word I associate with a lack of preparation. Memorization is by no means knowing. Nothing’s been learned. This we know from exam cramming. When a writer KNOWS their work, words flow in the manner they were intended and created. This, I admire.

As an outdoor enthusiast, I’ve long been a fan of Mary Oliver, in my mind the gold standard for nature-based poetry. And so I give you my concise review of Rainforest in Russet from Canadian Poetry Review:

Cynthia Sharp’s Rainforest in Russet is a heartfelt walk into nature. With the skill and passion of Mary Oliver, Sharp brings us along for a sensory stroll in the woods. Through these trees, however, we clearly see the forest – personal, metaphorical, and unabashedly open.

Words I meant and will, no doubt, repeat. This is good work by a good writer. A writer who sets the opening tone of her book with a Jay Griffiths quote, The forest doctors of the Amazon / say / each plant has its “song.” Which left me smiling for a couple of reasons: having heard this author-plant’s “song,” and first finding it on Amazon.

And for no other reason than to be different, I’ll close with the book’s opening poem (co-written Jude Neale) in its entirety, the title poem which is, in its way, voluminous – a penetrating look at the author, her craft and passions beyond the page. In other words, honest writing from a talented poet. And a proper friend. This is Rainforest in Russet, the poem:

In the silence / between / breaths // my truth rises. I fall into the space / where the forest // captures / light. // Is this the question / or the answer? // To trust this journey of closure? // A new opening repertoire – / I dig for you // in the shadows of dying / grey matter, // to find a slip, // a morsel / of foggy memory. // How we set up your chessboard / the night we met. // Photographed the pieces // in their complicity / to be seen as art. // The queens, // their own fashion statements / balanced in the spotlight. // The horses rode across / the checkered landscape, // free of battle / scars or fear. // Configurations / came and went. // We both knew the game / transcended competition, // our strategy / a decades long / tango of connection. // We played until / slivers of dawn // shone // onto an empty stage. // Now at the threshold / of rainforest in russet, // ash into earth, / to whatever is or isn’t, // I am released.

Other thoughts on Rainforest in Russet:

“… every one [of the poems] in this collection moved me in some powerful way. I highly recommend this book for lovers of brave and honest nature poetry.” – Stephen Karr, poet.

“Her images flow “like water through rocks.” The poems are well crafted and cleanly edited.” – Lilija Valis, author of Freedom on the Fault Line.


About the Author: Cynthia Sharp has been published and broadcast internationally. Her poetry has appeared in numerous literary journals and anthologies on five continents and was nominated for the Pushcart Prize & Best of the Net Anthology. She enjoys the beauty of nature on Canada’s west coast, where she is at work on a new poetry collection.

About the Reviewer: Bill Arnott is the bestselling nonfiction author of 2019 WIBA Finalist Gone Viking: A Travel Saga and Dromomania: A Wonderful Magical Journey. Bill’s a featured performer at literary events internationally. His poetry, articles and columns are published in Canada, the US, UK, Europe and Asia. When not trekking the globe, Bill can be found on Canada’s west coast, reading, writing, making friends and drinking too much coffee.

Rainforest in Russet by Cynthia Sharp
Silver Bow Publishing

*Please note if you choose to purchase this book (or Kindle version) through Amazon using the link below we will receive a small commission at no extra cost to you. If you cannot see the Amazon ad below (if you are using an ad blocker, for instance) here is the link: https://amzn.to/3bQL00Y Thanks!  

Bill Arnott is the bestselling author of A Season on Vancouver Island, the Gone Viking travelogues, and A Perfect Day for a Walk: The History, Cultures, and Communities of Vancouver, on Foot (Arsenal Pulp Press, Fall 2024). Recipient of a Fellowship at London’s Royal Geographical Society for his expeditions, Bill’s a frequent presenter and contributor to magazines, universities, podcasts, TV and radio. When not trekking with a small pack and journal, Bill can be found on Canada’s west coast, where he lives near the sea on Musqueam, Squamish, and Tsleil-Waututh land.