Season of the Second Thought (Wisconsin Poetry Series)

Image of Season of the Second Thought (Wisconsin Poetry Series)
Release Date: 
November 21, 2017
University of Wisconsin Press
Reviewed by: 

“Lynn Powell transforms experience and language itself into a revelation . . .”

Lynn Powell’s third book of poetry (following Old & New Testaments and The Zones of Paradise) is a marvel of self-searching through the many levels of a complex woman’s life. We journey with her through the seasons of experience where everything—nature, art, music, religion, sexuality, language, the street—radiate light. Her daring range and radiant language find a precedent in poets such as Edna St. Vincent Millay, Wallace Stevens, Elizabeth Bishop, and Adrienne Rich, yet they are uniquely her own blend and voice.

Raised in the South (Chattanooga) among Pentecostals, her liberal arts education questioned religion, but it did not dismiss it. She neither shuns nor blindly embraces religion, but wrestles with it, finding at times gripping stories and brilliant images and language that can yield truths. Often she uses nature or art as apt metaphor for revelation as in “Fragments of a Lost Gospel”:


April at flood stage, and the mercury

rising to the occasion—the blind pond healed

of its cataract of ice, the sky’s

white hemorrhage stopped.

And who was there when the stone

of winter rolled away?

A glossolalia of geese.

Magdalenas in the orchard repenting of their nakedness.

. . .


The sky has a mind so clear it can read itself.

I wish I had a mind like that:

one sharp-shinned thought at home on the updraft,

Down here, the wind stirs up a dry

dervish of the unsown field—a godforsaken god

scuffing her heel in the dust.

Here is a writing that is both contemplative and vivid in a way that is illuminating. And yet the author has no need or will to teach, only to reveal through a close examination of the conflicted self in the world.

“Gale Force Hymn” blends religious belief with the landscape:

            Clouds snag on the hills

                        and drag a downpour like torn lace.

Trees write like Pentecostals.

But it’s too late to coax God to be good,

                        too late to grovel with tears or hosannas:

nothing swerves the will of a whirlwind.

And yet, this vivid wrestling with religion and meaning is only one aspect of this complex poet and book that also turns for meaning to paintings, music, the human body, and always nature. Birds, flowers, trees, stones, nipples and hands—all hold potential meaning for the poet.

Each of the three sections of the book contains a poem addressed to the Muse, asking, beseeching, chiding her as in “Feedback for the Muse”:

But you know me: I compost tea leaves and call a star a star.

I think a thought doesn’t count till I can taste it on the tongue.

Remember what we promised?

Kiss and tell it like nobody else.

So don’t bother sending trifles dredged

from the rock bottom of your heart.

Or roses blazing some bloody message—like flares

at the edge of a wreck desire.

The language and voice are not lofty or distant, but personal, imaginative, and direct. We enter the poet’s mind and heart, if not her literal world. In poem after poem, Lynn Powell transforms experience and language itself into a revelation that holds, while also challenging the reader to step dep into the waters.