Broad Meadow Bird by Brad Vogel. Euphrosine Publishing. 2015
Reviewed by Taylor Hamann
The poems in Broad Meadow Bird tackle a range of themes as varied as life itself. They deal with subjects from relationships to experiencing Wisconsin cities, giving us the sense that life can, and often will, take unexpected paths. This variation, a result of fifteen years of writing poetry, makes for an interesting read.
The book is divided into sections that guide us through the twists and turns of Vogel’s poetry. Each section has a distinct purpose. “Love Songs from the Closet” invites us into an intimate space while “Feathers” gives us just a taste of various moments, many of the poems consisting of five or fewer lines. “Surviving the Salt Mines” peers into the more gritty aspects of life.
My favorite poem of the collection is “Overgrown.” Containing startlingly beautiful imagery, it begins with a lingering pain: Only say the word / And I shall be healed.
The poem continues to pulse with growth: Vines unfurling in the dark warmth / Tendrils corkscrew down / The inside of capillaries.
And then it ends with vibrant hope: Blossoms push / At the back of my lips.
This striking last image leaves a reader at a moment of tension, one about burst into something new.
I also enjoyed “November,” a poem that equates the frosty winter month with a somber stage performance. Highlighting a season of dying, it builds to this final moment: A slow, mournful requiem / Grudgingly wailed by the / String and backed with / Ghastly bass patterns / As the audience digs / Further into its seats, / Hunkering down uneasily / For the final act.
Winter in the Midwest certainly has its own unique, haunting music, something Vogel effectively captures in this poem.
“Fire Danger High” also brims with evocative imagery: There are days when packed air / Condensates into sparrows / Dust droplets flicking in the sun.
However, I often found myself unable to understand at what the speaker of the poems was grasping. The language felt lofty at times and subjects remained unclear. Phrases such as “unrythmably violent,” “duchess of angioplasty,” and “the elliptical ranch of supremacy” made the reading difficult at times. “A Defense of Love” contains its own footnotes that merely make several of the lines more disorienting. I became lost in the language, unable to discern what I was supposed to see or feel.
Because of this, I found myself not wanting to finish reading the book at times. Reading the entire book rewarded me with the poems above, but poems of that caliber did not come along that often. While I would definitely recommend several of the poems to others, I am not sure I would recommend the collection as a whole.