Reviewed by Sheree L. Greer, MFA
In The Quiet Fields, poet and artist William Boden invites his readers into a world where nature reigns supreme and creates a visceral experience of all its powerful, compelling elements. Instances of wind and water, fire and ice, find their way into nearly every poem presented in the collection.
Boden’s greatest strength is presenting experiences in nature as active, reflective exercises of human emotion. In the opening poem “The River” for example, memory and contemplation are activities representative of living a full life:
“The river flows slowly close to shore.
Young men come here alone at night
To brood over women they’ll never see again.
On these flat, dry rocks, old men can stand
And gaze without having to smile, whirlpools of water
Flowing behind canes, and young boys reach for wet stones.”
Lest the imagery whisk the reader away to quiet places on among rivers, fields, and streams, Boden illustrates his firm grasp of classic literary techniques with alliteration, assonance, and sibilant construction that make poems like “January 27th,” “The Path,” and “Class Reunion” a delight to read.
When Boden strays from his rich command of scenic imagery to delve into less abstract narrative poems with a clear and formidable speaker, a certain detachment asserts itself. In “The Cliffs of Insanity,” the theme is strong and the lines are telling and descriptive, yet the narrative voice is more compelling when he crafts more subtle, provocative verses rich with longing in better-crafted pieces, such as “Dream Map,” “Billiards,” and “After Mexico.”
A strong collection of poetry, the most impressive piece by far is “Mosaic,” whose greatest strength is its triumphant culmination of abstraction, narrative, and imagery to incite feeling and reflection in a way that exemplifies Boden’s inspirations and intentions.
“The craftsman waits: sunsets on bad days
bring color to life the way clouds brush
maroon and gold on a stormy sky.
He picks ruby and ochroid tiles, works fast.
Today’s failures: with chapped hands
he swings his pick-axe where needed.
The icebox of the world distracts us
while we wait for his next strike.”
The Quiet Fields is a strong collection of poetry in which Boden creates a wide open space for memory and contemplation to roam free.