|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 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,
And what he chose to speak about, that time — how soft it was,
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,
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
the song returning from the deepest blues.