'Desert Light' : Lamar University Literary Press publishes poetry collection by Loretta Diane Walker

'Desert Light' : Lamar University Literary Press publishes poetry collection by Loretta Diane Walker

As I write this review, the clouds gather in the sky again for another spring shower. Such is life in Southeast Texas! The book I’m reading this month, Desert Light, offers respite from the rain and takes readers into the beautiful but rugged landscape of West Texas. Odessa poet Loretta Diane Walker, a music teacher by day, lends readers her finely tuned ear and her artistic eye to explore this region of Texas and how it can be both lovely and ugly all at once. Her poems open beyond simple pastorals to offer readers meditations on how our lives, too, are filled with that same paradox. These poems allow us to find moments of immense beauty in even the darkest of times.

Walker takes an honest look at the unforgiving landscape of her home. In “Falling into Morning,” we hear the desert wind “descending into madness” as it scalps maple trees and oaks. Tumbleweeds, natives to this landscape, fly “towards shelter” and the “glassy teeth of wind-chimes chatter fearful melodies.” However, the speaker asks, “Is it mad to say there is beauty in the wind’s insanity?” And then she shows it to us, that beauty amid danger, by describing a mound of leaves piled by the wind in the corner of her yard, sandwiched “between concrete and sky / their scarlet-orange bodies heaped into a chilly flame.” 

The poem “Brutal Beauty” takes a similar turn as it describes cacti, “their sharp / language, each thorny syllable / planned pain.” But like the violent desert wind, Walker teaches us to see beauty in the most unexpected places, in “a red flower” that “bleeds beauty” as a “coyote cries.”

 

Of course, in addition to being windy and filled with plants that can make you bleed, the West Texas landscape is also known for its drought. “The Dry Side of Texas” describes a thirsty countryside on what seems to be the brink of ruin as “the desert’s dry tongue / wags for forty-four square miles.” Here, prairie dogs take refuge from the sun, “burrow through the conclusion of day.” A rattlesnake’s skin becomes a symbol for death...

-by Katherine Hoerth, special to The Examiner

 

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