Wild Kin by Marlene Grand Maître

Wild Kin, by Marlene Grand Maître, offers 22 nature-related poems that express an affinity for the natural world through original and vivid phrasing. “Ghazal VIII” states, “Twilight borrows black from my cat’s coat. Makes / night’s blanket.” “Weathered” describes a flock of birds: “a black lace / cloud of sparrows blocks the insistent sunrise.” “Carried in the Marrow” whisks us off to a stormy site: “A Macaulay Point squall flays exposed skin, spars with tree trunks, / turning the leaves into a knot of fists shaken at the sky.”

Running through many of the poems is a longing for connection with our “wild kin” of the title. “Intertidal” contains the lines, “Estranged from my species, I walk / a wild beach at low tide.” Some of the poems invite the reader to envision this connection with the natural world for themselves. In “Slip the Knot”:

. . . Your heart wilds,
and you are horse. You rear and buck.
For a moment, you slip the knot

that makes us other.

At the same time, there is acknowledgement of a certain distance between humans and the fauna and flora surrounding us. “Summoning Dusk” has the poet regarding a robin, and thinking

. . . What can we know
of his life—a small red planet
in partial eclipse as he feathers the air.
His ear attuned to earthworms,
his plaintive whistle summoning

dusk’s shroud.

Some poems deal, directly or indirectly, with humanity’s destructive impact on the environment. “The Endling” talks about the decline of Rabb’s fringed-legged tree frog, while a tree-cutting is described in “My Hands are Branches,”:

                        Yesterday, the hill above
the yard was chainsaw whine and drone.
The crack and splinter, thud and bellow
of 28 trees dying.

In “The Solace of Chickadees,” “a carnival // of chirps and thrums comes to town / while much of the province burns.” In “Ghazal IV,” there is reference to a diesel spill, and the lament, “Who will listen to grief’s black and white choir of orcas?”

Wild Kin is part of Raven Chapbooks’ Publisher’s Indigo Series for 2023. The book is attractively formatted in a 6 ½ inch by 8-inch size and printed on quality paper. Japanese Stab Binding was the technique used to hold the book together, and the dark green quarter-inch Grosgrain ribbon matches nicely with the print on the white cover as well as the cover photo. Wild Kin should resonate with anyone who has experienced, desired or wishes to celebrate a sense of connection with the natural world.