F.D. Reeve,  Poetry magazine:

...Usually, in fact, like Diane Thiel, winner of the thirteenth annual Nicholas Roerich Poetry prize, one doesn’t love the past either:

 The language of our dreams contains
 the places we can never name again
 without the shame...
 It will take many lifetimes to reclaim
 this language of my childhood.

But Thiel loves the language she does have; she’ll use it to make poetry out of a different time and place. “We live today those stories we were told,” she writes, for the imagination has regenerative power.  By making people conscious and articulate, it can redeem them from error.

The fairy tale fantasy, in which everyone has a significant, or responsible, role is truer to the possibilities of human nature than is the collation of facts called history, which people in the present use to dissociate themselves from the past.  Seriously speaking, time is a holding pattern of events, “all this history” — metaphorically, a quilt recut and restitched by each participant.  The patches are public fields; the seams carry years of “careful secrets.”  The intellectualized conceit allows Thiel to assert the propriety of the intension of her verse, the effective completion of the verbal play.

Verse it is, as handsomely witnessed by “Love Letters,” a gentle — one might say “family” — sestina on an old topic made poignantly new.  The poet’s father is German; her mother isn’t but wants to learn the language the children, also, speak; she studies and, to prove her progress, writes her husband love letters in German, which he “never answered” but “returned...with his German / corrections in the margin, his little / red marks — hieroglyphs for her to translate, / as if she were one of the children.”  Thiel’s compassion floods the envoi with its unspeakable ironic close:

Because her own children were half-German,
she built her life around those little books
translating the lines of her own letters.

Skill at distancing — moving from a simple, involved moment to a wry, repositioned overview, thereby allowing the emotional experience to endure in the language and to be available to every reader — is evident throughout the book, perhaps most rewardingly in anecdotal poems such as “Textiles.”  “Textiles” begins with eighteen casual, loose iambic lines describing how father and children made bed covers of a bolt of thick purple cloth found on a beach.  The next six lines summarize the bedtime story the father told about sleeping alone in the woods on a fresh rabbit skin and parachute silk during World War II.  Then, envoi-like, three lines close the poem by refocusing it, lifting it out of time altogether:

And what he chose to speak about, that time — how soft it was,
like nothing he had ever felt — he said,
it was such beautiful material.

It takes a keen intelligence to draw forth the power in simplicity.

Not all conceits are fruitful.  For example, in “Letters from the Garden,” “poems stretching their limbs / inside these letters” in Section I seems fetched, a false artifice, but by Section IV the impulse driving the poem has become impassioned and, though finally vague, reverberant:

I want to lie with you in this garden,
feel it cool around us when we become 
this loam, as we have every tree
you’ve loved me up against —
the earth full of us as we are full,
our seeds covered with the dark life of it.
Intellectually, the poem is achieved.  I suppose its persuasiveness depends on its reader’s willingness to join in sharing the role of “you,” but the poet has provided an imaginative avenue into the poem.

Her poems come with epigraphs from Schiller and Yeats to Hayden and Szymborska, but especially pleasing is to see a section introduced by a quote from Louise Bogan.  American tradition lives. And it throbs and pulses in the final poem, “Echolocations,” based on conceiving a whale skeleton on a beach as a house into another world, a vehicle along the whale’s way itself, the instrument of the sea’s singing and of singing to the sea,

The calls reverberating through the waters
to navigate the depths, to guide us through
one ocean to another, the dark indigos,
the song returning from the deepest blues.

In this crafted verse, even a light pun gathers the weight of honest ambiguity.