Roots Grow Wild by Erica Hoffmeister is a collection of poetry told by the oldest daughter in a Midwest family. Hoffmeister earned her MA in English and MFA in Creative Writing from Chapman University’s dual degree program in 2015. She has work published or forthcoming in Mothers Always Write, FreezeRay, Rag Queen Periodical, So To Speak, Split Lip Magazine, Rat’s Ass Review, and Shark Reef, among others.
Hoffmeister draws the reader into her poetry in two ways. First, her skill with language is reminiscent of the style in Woolf’s The Years, especially the opening of the chapter “1911”.
Sawdust swirling in circles around September leaves.
Piles of certainty: certainty that the leaves would crash
into earth and course through veins underground by
month until green sprouts welcomed spring in a rush of
pollen and migraines, mothers always seemed to turn up
with at the sight of a new sun.
The words combine to become something more than their individual selves or even their combined totals. They create complete images and memories in the reader’s mind. Hoffmeister takes the reader into an era where complexity created the allure of poetry. It is the magic of using words to form a composite representation of reality. The language usage in this collection is just stunning.
The second draw is the symbolism and the blending of family and a tree in a battle of survival. Early on the reader learns of tree roots destroying the house’s foundation and the father’s attempt to remove the tree and save the house. The role of family and tree switch and are intertwined. The ax is the tool used to remove the tree but watching her fathers preoccupation with the violent destruction of the tree creates the question, is the axe destroying the tree or is it destroying the father?
Arms percolated with sweat, merging with bleeding
sap of bark. From the porch, we could not tell who was a
tree and who was a man, or whom the axe betrayed first.
One may assume that man would win over the tree but “The Storm of ’97” seems to be out of place; a bit bizarre when taken alone, but when considered in the context of the book with the twists, braids, and even the roots of the bald cypress trees one sees that all things are plaited. The tree and the family can be interchanged or at least interconnected.
Poetry was not meant to be trite, simplistic, or an Instagram sensation. Hoffmeister creates the art that is poetry — deep, involved, interconnectedness, and with language that creates a complete reality. Roots Grow Wild captures the ideal of poetry and poetic prose in a contemporary setting.