The poems in Geosmin by Catherine Young are complete in evoking all the senses to describe rural Wisconsin. As I read the scenes and the images she created, I was brought back to my experiences in nature. But she goes beyond nostalgia. Her choices made me pause and linger in the world she shows us with her careful word choice. In the first section of her book, she describes the natural terrain to explore our internal landscapes.
A quick Internet search of Young shows that she worked as a national park ranger, farmer, and mother. Her expertise in these areas has given her the knowledge and vocabulary to vividly describe rural life. Ms. Young is able to place her reader into nature. Her details evoking all the the senses transported me into pristine, but earthy woods.
Her word choices are lithic. And perfect. To be honest, I had to look up some words like lithic, but I was always glad I did. They are the words that needed to be used.
As a farm kid moved into town close to 40 years ago, I appreciated the poems about things I have forgotten like Fireflies- “the afterimage of sparks in the night.” Yes, Young’s exacting details dug deep for me. In one poem she describes how in school, we had to color a cornucopia. Like Young describes, I had never seen a real one, but I sure like doing the Thanksgiving art project about them.
My brain labeled these poems as the quintessential portrait of Wisconsin. However, I quickly decided this was not accurate. No, the word that fit better is essential. Ms. Young selects the important parts to focus on. The way nature speaks to us. The image of a man leaning himself up on a tractor. With Poems like “Farmer/Janus”, Ms. Young goes on to include everything pertinent to living in upper Wisconsin as she describes what it is like to live on a farm after the animals are sold off. This is part of living in Wisconsin is well. The dissonance from not making a living from the land.
Though these images resonated with me because I am a Wisconsinite, that does not mean these poems are not for everyone. The section Of Origins and Aging often addresses the rewards and challenges of being a woman, and though I am not one, I still found the images beautiful and the topic something I needed to reflect on.
I recommend Geosmin to any lover of poetry. The poetry it contains reminds us that we can learn about what it means to be human through nature.