(& Other Poems)
Why We Make Gardens, Jeanne Larsen’s second book of poetry, is divided into five sections: “Elementals,” “Generations,” “That Green Expiring Close,” “Annihilating All That’s Made,” and “Pleasance.” Each poem incorporates the word “garden” in the title in some way—some are more metaphysical, such as “Garden of Bitterness,” and some are more literal, such as “Garden After Winter’s First Storm.” The book is unified through this theme of gardens, yet Larsen’s finely tuned sensibilities never allow the poems to fall into redundancy.
There is a lushness and close attention to sound, the way the words feel in the mouth, in Larsen’s work. Sometimes the sound is so dense and thick with consonance the lines can be difficult to read aloud; for example, in “The Gazing-Globe Garden,” the line “Carrara of columns, remembrance’s / granite acute” shows close attention to sound, the similarity of “granite” and “acute” working as a slant rhyme.
“The Garden of Wood” is one of the more striking poems in the book. True to its title, it is a poem about wood but written nearly as a personification, and ending with these resonating lines: “It tends other gardens / with shreds of its skin. / Its secret is bending, is also / refusal to bend.”
Larsen writes about other writers in several of her poems, often from the author’s perspective. Nathanial Hawthorne, Emily Dickinson, Anne Spencer, and Ralph Waldo Emerson are just a few of the authors she pays homage to in her poetry.
Overall, Larsen’s work captivates with its prismatic look at the word “garden,” revealing all of the intricacies and possibilities of the word.