Shelby Stephenson reviews Sherry Siddall’s book Sweet Land

Siddall, Sherry.  Sweet Land (Finishing Line Press, 2021)

     Sweet Land is a Love poem:  the unknown, the personal touch.  Ark charts a walk on the beach, meditation:  the ocean’s tongues lap, and the shells wash up and on as “buttercups,” the whole inner and outer changed for the good. 

     “Before the Frost” is an example for Love and Hope.  Memory of a nursing home, as I interpret: “I never thought it would come to this . . . :”  Poem ends:

“winter is coming

it will be glorious soon, all

the light absorbed, done.”

     And North Carolina’s state bird lives in the poem “Cardinal.”  “I hear fierce birds again, as a brown horse watches me over the fence.”

     Sherry Siddall’s Sweet Land rocks and waves with Love of words and surround.  Bareness crackles and winter’s gone, “no future here, no joy, but still those buds,” always the breaking in the sweet sweat of living day to day among “supple” twigs that become the red bird that settles all.  And then “Elegy,” cardinal dead beneath my window.

     Who has not seen this?  Siddall lets us spread the “redness where there is no color.”

     “Hunting Season” speaks for me, for I feed the small game I hunted for the table when I was a boy, a “hunter.”  Her poem’s about hunting ducks; I substitute doves in my memory in her words, “limp feathered bodies” on a rail. 

     These two lines in Sweet Land sum Hope:  “None of earth’s beauty holds us so fast / as this sky, this immensity flying past.”  


Shelby Stephenson was North Carolina’s poet laureate, 2015-2018. His recent book is Shelby’s Lady:  The Hog Poems.

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