Book Review: Collected Poems by Risa Stephanie Bear

Collected Poems

Collected Poems by Risa Stephanie Bear is a collection of poetry by author and naturalist Risa Bear. I had previously read her Starvation Ridge, a work of fiction, and became interested in the author. Her biography and postings on Google + peaked my interest. Here is a person who cared for the planet and her footprint on the planet before most people did. Her views and life reflect a more Native American respect for life and the earth than the modern environmentalist, but, unlike many other spokespeople for the planet, she truly walks the walk.

The collection seems to be separated into two distinct sections. In the first half of the collection the poetry, although written with feeling and imagery, takes a form much like nature. There is a pattern to her work; an earthy, natural pattern that is not confined to meter or line. It does have a recognizable form but like nature itself is free to grow and form as it pleases, where it can.

A few poems really jumped out at me. “we went to see the place” is about growing and eating locally. Instead of eating what is in our backyards, we would rather have food trucked in from hundreds of miles away. At this place Bear tell about the man selling the land and the fences round the property for sale. There is no fence between the man’s property and the property for sale. When asked why the man responded, “Oh, I don’t need a fence. Don’t want your apples, and you are welcome to mine.”

“we are that kind” took me a bit off guard, by my own assumptions, about the author’s diet. It is easy to assume that in a modern society meat is not needed, but in a self-sustained environment I can the reasoning and need. That faith was reaffirmed in ‘’fourth of july.” It is rare to find a person so honest in their beliefs. The first section finishes with the lengthy poem of “marching on the potomac, 1971” where she tells of protesting at the Selective Service Headquarters, being arrested, and of other people who in their own small way help make a difference.

The section is a collection of more traditional poems in subject and form. There is still the author’s personal connection with nature and her own beliefs. “the lessons we gave in our home school, such as it was” takes simples lessons on life and history and shows how they are twisted by society.

There are a handful of writers that I would really love to meet. Not just for their writing abilities, but for the message they spread. It is a small group and Risa Bear is certainly at the top of my list. Here is a person who lived a life I wish I could have, and an inspiration to live better.

4 1/2 stars

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