Review of The Plains of Heaven

By Bob Moreland

This book of ekphrastic poetry is a collaboration between talented artist Kelli Hoppmann (www.kellihoppmann.com) and accomplished poet F.J. Bergmann (www.fjbergmann.com). 

An epigram from Milton sets the tone that “all is not lost- the unconquerable will. And study of revenge and immortal hate”. The twelve paintings paired with unrhymed sonnets capture an annual cycle, January through December. 

Hoppmann’s paintings with brilliant colors against stark contrasts, seemingly perfect young women in brocaded dresses and animals in motion animate her surrealism. The paintings are juxtaposed with Bergmann’s gift of language using words familiar and unfamiliar to take the reader beyond the painting, sometimes to unexpected places or conclusions. Themes begin to appear such as similar women, non sequitur like images with dogs charged with action, foxes hiding at the edge or devil incongruously placed between beauties. Add to this a poet who challenges us with her use of the language: shear as a noun, an incubus, sororal twins and tetraploid flounces. The verse is as surreal as the paired paintings.

For example, the starkness of Unwinding (January), a ginger-haired woman in white on a vast frozen lake beneath a snowy sky, the poet extends the image engaging all our senses. 

“Breezes like silk shawls bristling with pins and takes us unexpectedly to No matter what monsters arise, you will not look back.”

February the starkness of the trees in painting and the dresses of two women, a brunette joining the ginger-haired woman and then

“Patient no longer, crows explode into the murderous wind”

May is notable with Emergence. Sororal twins, an incubus, cherry blossoms, weeping willows and dogs as hellhounds. The poet’s use of language makes one appreciate how they complement each other.

“Dangling its lithe whips, a willow crouches over you, quiet as a recluse spider.”

As the seasons change in Midwestern fashion with foliage budding out in May giving rise to the full moon on the lake in Herpetology (June), we try to decipher images with the verse are met with cannibalistic surprise. 

Each selection and accompanying poem have much to consider. The foxes in summer in a wood, the nakedness in the early fall with widow’s weeds. A pyromaniac’s dream, Prairie Fire  takes clues from the artist and leads us aloft. The cycle completes in December with Ceremony. Much like the annual cycles of birth, life and death with a hint of resurrection in the following spring we are brought full circle:


“Frozen fast and freestanding in a clearing, you yourself 
are the door through which a new you comes into being.”

With a cup of tea or glass of wine, take your time exploring this collection. You will discover something new and unexpected with each additional reading.


Bob (Robert) B. Moreland has a doctorate in biochemistry and works in biomedical/clinical research.  He has published poems in several journals including Borderlands and the South Dakota Review and several anthologies. Bob lives with his wife Rebecca and Yorkshire Terrier, Boo Boo, near Lake Michigan in Southeastern Wisconsin.


 

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