Winter River Flowing by T. Kilgore Splake. Presa Press, 2014.
Reviewed by Megan Kida
Splake created this book as a collection of what he thinks are the best poems he has written throughout his lifetime. He creates a memoir of different stories or details and forms of poems. The change in length and format keep the reader engaged, which at some points is necessary. Some of the poems are multiple pages long which makes it necessary for Splake to contrast them with a few short poems preceding and succeeding it.
Throughout the collection there is a notable theme of loneliness shown in lines like “mirroring my loneliness” in journey to climb a mountain and “passing solitary… remote wilderness” in trout dancing sonata. This theme emphasizes the fact that these poems were written throughout the course of his life, and that solidarity and loneliness are a consistent theme in life as well. If the collection contained only poems written within a year of each other, but they were still about loneliness, the book would be rather depressing. Since they spread out to tell the story of the man’s life, however, the loneliness seems to be more of a pleasant solidarity than a sad one.
More than a few of his selected poems were dry and hard to get through, but the read was worth it when you stumbled upon a golden poem. Toward the beginning I found my favorite titled a taste of warmth which dragged me in from the line “tight Levi stride of morning…” all the way to “naked embrace, / momentarily in love…” The words were so descriptive and unique that I not only felt as if I was there when I read it, but I also truly wanted to be there as well. The poem mentions many other writers including F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald and e.e. Cummings, as well as artists such as Picasso. It describes a simplistic, yet cultured life that many people aspire to live, whether or not he meant to or not.
As for the rest of the book, though very descriptive and relatively well written, as I read it I found my mind wandering and not being able to stay focused on the poems I was reading. There were a few like taste of warmth and heart song, as well as a few more, that I focused on and truly enjoyed reading, but there were also many that failed to grasp my attention for more than the first few stanzas.
The title of the book, in my opinion, represents the idea of loneliness. Winter River Flowing gives the ironic idea of a frozen river trying to flow; at least some of the water is stuck in its frozen form and is incapable of actually flowing. This relates to the poems implying that at some points the poet was stuck in his lonely life, but at other times he was able to break through that loneliness and move forward in life.
Overall, I do think that this collection was worth the read for the poems that were enjoyable. The good poems outweighed the bad in quality even though there were more bad than good.