Chasing Wild Grief by Sandra J. Lindow 2021 Kelsay Books 66 Pages.

Review by Herb Kauderer

This book is a mix of genre and non-genre poems toward the thematic end expressed in the title.  Definitions vary, but it is more mainstream than not by my reading.  It is also primarily pastoral poetry, though urban human images occasionally intervene for comparison or contrast.  Consider:

and cardinals share seeds on our balcony feeder.
More polite than students in a crowded beer bar,
they wait their turn,

The writing is rich with image:

                As dandelions ascend a brush pile
                of broken bridal wreath, the heron’s
                wild light ascends a broken heart

And certainly carries quiet strength, and sometimes darkness:

What is it we carve in each other, as decades
        slide silently past, the slip of almost unfelt knives
                shaping our stony epitaphs?

Speculative references are intertwined with the pastoral such as:

I read the romance
of the blue morpho dragonfly,
bluest-of-skies Zenithoptera,
how his wings are living,
breathing layer cakes of light,
nanoscale spheres lying
between black blankets
of pigment reflecting
blue light through waxy
leaf-shaped crystals, and I think
how in your last sleep,
you still glowed
          p. 30

Shape poems and other formal verses are scattered throughout, though their intentional forms are incidental to the success of those verses.  For instance, “Darning”, which finished third in the 2021 Rhysling Awards short category, is a shape poem, and a cleave poem, while serving as a SpecPo consideration of the chasing wild grief theme of the collection.

“February Flurry” (p.41) is shaped like a snowflake, and asks if crows, so often the harbingers of death, can drink snow while flying, and become intoxicated on sky.

As pastoral poetry, Lindow’s nature is neither an ideal of wonder, nor only red of tooth and claw.  Rather it is a mosaic of wonders, and grief, and beauties and tragedies.

Born from bitter
forget-me-not cold
and the bloodless
egg white maw
of Ash Wednesday’s
snow slouched beast,
a toothy sunlit smile
hits ditched cars
along the asphalt breach.
          p. 28

For me, this collection is about the intersections of nature, wildlife, grief, intellect, and memory, often written in a mainstream style leavened with the elements of SpecPo that nicely blur lines of division. 

                Looking back once, I leave
through the upstairs of an old library,
past the card catalog of blessed places,
each step turned salt by unshed tears,
going home, unknowing where that is.
          p. 42

There are no drones or solar sails, no shambling tentacle monsters, transformed fairy tales, or colonized moons.  There are napping tortoises, flying birds of many kinds, and the mixed study and emotions of nature.  If a reader seeks relief from some of the classic tropes of SpecPo, this might be a nice walk in a wood which (as so many woods do) features myth, science, speculations, and occasional darkness.


Author's photo
Herb Kauderer is an English professor at Hilbert College, and a prolific poet and writer. His twenty-first poetry collection is titled Curses and Recurses: Poems of Writing & Damnation from Written Image and is available on Kobo. Print copies of many of his books are available via his website One of his favorite hobbies is getting physicists drunk so he can understand them. He’s sharing this because he considers it an artform connected to SpecPo.

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