I’m ready for spring to hurry up and get here already, so I couldn’t help gravitating toward poems featuring plants in the Fall 2019 issue of The Hampden-Sydney Poetry Review.
Tara Bray focuses on plants in all three of her poems: “Inside the Sycamore,” “Milkweed: Doxology,” and “Lemon Verbena.” She writes with a hushed appreciation and admiration for each of these. There’s a familiarity and softness in her words. She calls the lemon verbena “sister,” she and her family fit themselves inside the sycamore, she feeds off the milkweed, a deep connection tying her to each plant.
This makes me appreciate Brian McDonald’s “Basil,” found on the following page, that much more. He heads in the completely opposite direction, beginning his poem with much less adoration: “Fuck. Another summer of trying to grow / these oily leaves I’ve always let fry / in the heat.” The basil plants lead McDonald to consider his shortcomings: other plants that have died in windowsills and his uncertainty about whether he’s treating his wife how she should be treated. He’s open and honest, deeply human, all with the help of these fragile basil plants.
It will still be cold here in Michigan for at least another month or two, so I definitely appreciate the writers that are able to deliver me from the chilliness and drop me in the middle of a sycamore or a warm backyard, a tray of basil plants in hand.