Pruning Burning Bushes
Publication Date: June 1, 2012
Wipf and Stock Publishers
Read the first poem in the book, “Cascade Valley,” published by Ascent.
Praise for Pruning Burning Bushes:
- Reviewed in Common Threads, by Sharon Fish Mooney
- Reviewed on Rattle, by Mary Sayler
- Reviewed on Englewood Review of Books, by Jennifer Moland-Kovash
- Reviewed on Antler, by Brad Fruhauff, editor of Relief Journal
- Reviewed in Image Update:
In her poetry collection Pruning Burning Bushes Sarah M. Wells delves into the rich ground of detail to turn up the “casual miracle” of what lives beneath. “Settle your shifting gaze,” she writes, then prunes through images of childhood, marriage, family, birth, and death, “cutting back two-thirds of growth / to trigger recovery from the trunk up.” From the rural to the urban, the aging to the newly born, the honky-tonk to the quilting club, the imagery she’s been given is not only tended with “sighing, sweating, fists on hips, pruners / lost in the grass” but also with a compassion and spirit “reckless with praise and the need to be filled.” In her recent essay in Poets Quarterly, Wells speaks as a writer whose work is faith-based—she says her joy in poetry “is discovering something I’d never known or felt before, my body nodding, yes, yes, that is it, there it is, the divine indwelt. And then this greater joy: to share that experience with another human being through the written word, poet and reader, a small community of believers who are now gathered in worship around this little altar.” Whether as altar builder or gardener, Wells’s work is inspired. As poet Sydney Lea writes, “Wells has been granted—and she knows it—the grace to eat life right down to the seed, where the joy of the mystery lies, and the peace that passes understanding.” – from Image Update, September 19, 2012
Wells has been granted – and she knows it – the grace to eat life right down to the seed, where the joy of the mystery lies, and the peace that passes understanding. Deft and inventive with strict form, with ambitious narrative, and with the poignant perspective, when called for, that comes of becoming a small child, Wells equally thrives on the merest simplisms of faith, on the densest meditation, and above all on her experience of full humanity, turning all to stunningly cogent advantage.
– Sydney Lea, author of Six Sundays toward a Seventh
Sarah Wells’ droll, evocative title perfectly fits her collection of poems, a series of “double exposures” that superimpose the biblical on a background of rural Ohio. Finely drawn farm implements, cows, carpentry, kitchens, roadkill, predatory sparrows, pool tables—all of it living and complete—coexist with figures from the Old Testament and the New: Dinah and Levi, Jesus, Eve as a naïve visitor in the carnival of the world, and her arch enemy—”the Predator”—in the guise of a sleazy Ferris wheel operator.
On that quilt-like ground, individual poems rich in the specifics of their time and place offer scenes from married life and motherhood, aging, and the process of accepting (but not erasing) inevitable losses, gorgeously compared to the aftertaste of raspberries, that “precious, fragile fruit” we eat in greedy haste.
This is a book to savor, not in haste but slowly, so as to enjoy the unobtrusive rightness of the language, the mature but unjaded view of the human condition, the depth under the playfulness. These poems remind me that to prune is to shape and nurture what the gardener values.
– Rhina Espaillat, author of Her Place in These Designs
Where Suburbans “honk and veer” behind a neighbor’s combine and Jesus walks into a bar to play pool with farmers, the poems of Sarah Wells study those juxtapositions of the urban and the rural, the wild and the agrarian which we live with in this country often without noticing. She notices and responds with the empathy of Theodore Roethke for the vulnerable non-human world and the visionary understanding of St. John of Patmos who knew a sign when he saw one. It is a pleasure to read a book of poetry dedicated to ‘spirits reckless with praise and the need to be filled.”
– Mark Jarman, author of Bone Fires: New and Selected Poems