This is a deep and soulful description of emotions, feelings, and inspirational moments in the life of one. These are memorable memories scripted in poetic form that shaped a life.
I … am a terrible poet. And because I’m a terrible poet, my natural instinct is to steer well clear of it. That said, I have been extremely lucky in the poetry that has managed to squeak in through the cracks and climb my seemingly endless TBR pile, all the way to the top where they pop into my hands. Patrick Scott’s Wailing Wind is one of those few collections, and I’m glad for it.
There is a certain difficulty to reviewing poetry, however, that doesn’t crop up as often in narrative fiction and nonfiction: to read poetry is to encounter another mind, and to spend some time getting to know it. Wailing Winds is definitely a collection that abides by this general statement. Each of its poems is a testament to Scott’s lives–his life as lived in the world we all know, and his rich internal life as described and demonstrated by each poem included in its pages. I’ve been friends and family with far to many poets to fall into the trap of pretending that there is any easy way to separate “literary criticism” from a criticism of how the poet chooses to view and express their own lives, so I am going to try very hard here to describe the book without delivering any sort of rating or verdict. Poetry is personal.
There are 27 poems, beginning with “Poor Child” and concluding with the titular “Wailing Winds.” The penultimate poem, “In My Lifetime” indicates the overall arc of the book even without reading that closing poem (though I certainly encourage you to do so), from the instinctive reactions of childhood through the more informed–though still sometimes imperfect–maturity of adulthood. And those winds that wail? They are, as that final poem states, “feelings out and feelings in,” part of a constant cycle through which Scott has moved, is moving, and will continue to move.
After all, that’s part of the magic of poetry, isn’t it? Poetry holds the past, present, and future as one continuous whole, a spinning tangled mass of evergreen feelings. Scott opts not to annotate or endnote his poems, leaving the interpretation entirely up to his readers. He comments on neither individual poems or the collection as a whole; the collection skips past other potential inclusions, such as a preface or introduction, end notes, further reading, acknowledgements, or conclusion. Many artists use these sections in an attempt to guide readers to interpret poems the way that they, the authors, intended. But Scott chooses a different path. Do his poems translate to direct reflections on his life as literally lived, and make an accurate history as well as an historic artifact? Or do they arrive on the page slantwise, sliding in diagonally as reflections on possible lives both lived and un-lived, lives from which Scott is only separated by the choices he made? Are they strictly metaphorical in nature, forming a sort of spiritual or cultural commentary upon many more lives than his own? Again, here comes poetry, muddling all options together until it is all three simultaneously.
All that remains is the poetry.
Well, the poetry and a contents page, the copyright information, and cover image. This is an incredibly brave choice, and many of Patrick Scott’s poems are themselves brave choices, either records or reflections on personal decisions both good and bad, but always real in a way that echoes compellingly in a way that sticks with me, even after I’ve finished the last word.
In a collection of 27 unique and yet interrelated poems chronicling life and loves in all their various stages, Southern veteran, photojournalist, and poet Patrick Scott’s Wailing Winds is both compelling and interesting, and indeed well worth a perusal by those curious enough to dig through to the heart of questions like “What makes a life a life?” and “What gives life its meaning?” Our mistakes, sometimes, hints Scott, but just as often our good choices and our loves lost and gained, our faith in others.
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I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
* Courtesy of Outskirts Press book listing.