Nancy Holmes’ The Flicker Tree

The Flicker Tree’s poems praise the Okanagan’s living creatures, whether they be plants, birds, animals or humans. These poems note the see-er in the ecology of the poem and of the bird, the prickly pear, and the butterfly.

In the book’s opening poem, “Earth Star,” readers are placed in the wilderness where the human hand is ever-present, “Logged two or three times, the woods are grazed and thin,/ wrecked with beautiful litter: lichen-crusted/ branches, broken trees.” As I read, I couldn’t help but think of the poetic form the idyll and its overarching sense of paradise, its desire to praise the rural life. Nancy Holmes’s poems offer one caveat as part of that praise: they cannot ignore the human element, the spoiler in that idyll/ideal. This idyll-like stance holds in other poems, such as “Morning Dove,” “Swans in January” and in “Saskatoons,” where the natural world is imbued with the comparisons to the human–where “fat-ass fruit” is “piling up in the bank account” or in “Finch Feeder,” where the narrator is the dealer and the birds the drug users, “The junkies sit all day/ at the dangling syringe, shooting up black seed.”

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