Wednesday, November 29, 2006



Breaking the Fever by Mary Mackey
(Marsh Hawk Press, East Rockaway, N.Y., 2006)

Poet, novelist, screenwriter, and educator Mary Mackey communicates in language clear and cogent. From the exceptional title poem to the last page, you'll find no obtuse shorthand in this book. Mackey has enjoyed a multi-faceted existence and polishes those facets with her words.

"Solo" is a personal revelation, allowing readers a peek into Mackey's creative process"

this is a land
of private imagination
where nothing
rules but
the intemperance
of dreams

"Witness" is simple, powerful, and shocking in its gentle presentation of man as a voracious, self-serving predator:

small things died
things we hardly noticed:
wild grasses
obscure fish
plants that didn't flower
tiny brown birds
a kind of grasshopper that only lived in Africa
a plant that grew high up in a tree in the Amazon
where no human being had ever seen it
a biting gnat that people were glad to see go
clothes moths
a Siberian squirrel
some weeds along the side of the freeway
some silly-looking thing that lived in the sand
that the curlews ate
some tiny green plankton that floated in the sea
that no one knew about

soon only the oldest of us could remember
a time when we woke to the humming of the locusts
when a coyote danced in the sagebrush
a beaver felled a treeā€¦.

In "The Freedom of High Places" the trees speak through the poet's words, sharing their legacy before falling to the chainsaw and axe:

we leave you with regret
willing you all we have:
our orphaned termites
our displaced birds,
some memory of green
and shelter and shade
our unfinished seductions
our eloquent stumps.

These poems are memories gleaned from life. Through good or not so good times, humans persevere, even when "the weight of living / stamps you flat / as a dime." Through a masterful command of language and images, Mary Mackey helps us see life through her eyes. If you're not familiar with her work, I recommend you start your adventure with Breaking the Fever.


Laurel Johnson is a Retired Registered Nurse and the author of four books. She is Senior Reviewer for Midwest Book Review; Review Editor for New Works Review; Staff Reviewer for Shadow Poetry Quill Quarterly Review and occasional submitting reviewer for The Wandering Hermit Review and Irish News and Entertainment. Her poetry and prose can be found online in various literary e-zines. She lives in Nebraska with her husband of forty years.


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