New book review on Rain Taxi by George Longecker (December, 2023).
One Bent Twig collects love poems for trees including first loved tree, sequoias, ancient trees, towering sugar maples, Douglas firs and red oaks. Tricia Knoll has hugged some of the best, planted dozens in her lifetime, and feels intuitively what scientists have discovered about tree sentiency and communication. As an Oregonian for over 40 years she witnessed the decline of old-growth forest and breathed the smoke of wildfires. Now, in Vermont ash borers threaten the trees that first people knew as the heart of their creation story. As an eco-poet, she sings tree-praises for thrivers and survivors knowing full well how climate change endangers so many.
Perhaps you know a tree, or perhaps you would like to; if so, then this book is for you. Its luminous verses are a happy reminder that we’re not the only ones here!
–Bill McKibben, Founder, Third Act
Tricia Knoll undertakes the ambitious project of writing a threnody, a paean, and a poetic autobiography all in one in One Bent Twig. With her expansive knowledge of all things arboreal, Knoll segues from tree to tree in One Bent Twig with metaphorical aplomb, heart-rending elegy, natural history, and chthonic confession. Wedding myth to science, devotion to humility. “I am all the trees know/ even new rot in the oak bole,” she confesses. These poems provide an essential, ironic lesson that looms over us all in the dwindling of overstories, namely how one’s innate uniqueness is connected inextricably to the larger whole, or as Knoll puts it in terms of her ambition as a poet, “I want to write my own life/ one bent twig among many.” And so she has.
Chard deNiord, Poet Laureate of Vermont (2015-2019)
April 2023 review by poet Loan Leotta in Highland Park Poetry website:
Opening the pages of One Bent Twig by Tricia Knoll takes us into a small forest. Knoll’s skillful use of imagery, forms, and free verse take us on a stroll introducing us to her own deep love and appreciation for trees and to the many ways we owe a debt to these guardians of nature. She also alerts us to the ways that we, humankind, are sadly ignoring the value these giants of the world of flora, much to the detriment of our world. I was thrilled to be offered a copy of the book to review because, having read many of her poems over the years, I am a fan of the way Tricia Knoll uses images and rhythms that carry her meanings directly from her pages to our hearts.
Knoll’s opening poem, Funeral in the Forest, talks about the fall of an old maple tree. Her eulogy for this once-living creature evoked tears. I recalled my mother’s simple words about trees: “Trees are important.”
Knoll says she grew up with a deep appreciation for trees. In her second poem, the book’s title poem, “One Bent Twig, “ Knoll lets us know just how closely she identifies with these wonderful beings. As a city girl, my appreciation was limited, but I was always, thanks to my mother, aware of them, but Knoll’s work has certainly deepened my appreciation of trees and their role in our lives as individuals and on the planet.
After reading Knoll’s collection I find myself thinking of trees not as an accessory for the garden or even of the many things around me made of wood and their connection to me. I see trees now as cousins—first friends, related. Knoll ventures farther than the usual feel good sentiments of “forest bathing” that are so popular now—using a walk in the forest to restore oneself, and even to boost our immunity. She confirms a sense of personal relationship, even attributing to trees a role in her development as a person in her poem All I am, “I am all that trees forget, the passing of footsteps…”
However, she does not ignore the sadness of life when trees are forced to partake in horrible things like lynchings. Her description of these wrong doings, is bold. She also describes the way trees are often relegated to the background for our lives. I had to admit I can fall into this pattern, forgetting what Knoll points out, how deeply related we are to trees.
But the book is far from negative. She plants seeds of hope for a better future in many of the poems. In American Chestnut she says, “hope inserts like a sliver..” Her choice of the almost extinct (thought once abundant) American Chestnut tree underlines her overall hope for the survival of our planet and the return of trees to a more prominent place in our society.
The penultimate poem, Sequester encourages us to protect the tree species remaining to us, and our job to“ repair for damage by our ancestors.”
Her final eloquent, elegant but simple words in “Notes on One Bent Twig” are presented as a series of couplets each a brilliant, wise, and profound defense of and hope for trees in our future.
Knoll ends the book with the hope that the natural order of trees living much longer than we (think of the 200 year old tree I the opening poem). She notes that would mean that today’s children will be long gone and the trees will remain, as the natural order of things. Trees are meant to outlive us, to carry wisdom from generation to generation on our behalf and to protect the world in forests for time well beyond the span of a human generation.
This is the perfect book to read now since soon we will be able to shed the indoor mindset of winter and walk outside among the trees and flowers. Reading it now, in winter, made me long for the days when trees would once again be verdant. I thought I appreciated trees before reading this—now I am much more aware of how vital they are in our lives. Everyone should read this book.
===ABOUT THE REVIEWER: Joan Leotta of Calabash, NC, plays with words on page and stage with stories and poems from real life and her imagination, usually dealing with food, family, and strong women. Her newest poetry collection, Feathers on Stone, was published by Main Street Rag in 2022.
Posted April 1, 2023