“Blue Heron Woman: Poems,” by Gail S. Burlakoff (2014)
This is not a review per se, as the author is a friend and former neighbor. Call it an observation.
“Blue Heron Woman” is the name given to Gail by a Cherokee-Cree medicine woman, the author bio explains, “and the name suits her; she has spent much of her life wading through one thing or another, watchfully waiting for the next adventure, moving from one place to another, defending her young, and surviving.”
The poems tell her story, from Hawaii just before and just after World War II to summers in the Ozarks; Panama; boarding school and college; as a “corporate wife” in St. Croix and Peru; and the end of that life and the beginning (and continuation) of another. It’s like a home movie with images that flicker by before taking off again, gradually forming a mosaic of a life.
It is not a fluid journey. There are stops and starts, joys and pains and choices. There is, Gail writes in a poem near the end of Part I, an itch to move on to something that will certainly be better — but the voices of the also well-traveled generations before her interrupt: “Halt. You are where you are for a reason. Stop, think, breathe, and be aware of who we are, Where we came from, Why we came. You are one of us, A courageous woman. Bless you.”
A blessing, indeed. I read the Kindle version of this book, but I recommend paper and ink for poetry. With an e-book I am never sure if the stanzas and line breaks are as the author intended, or if what I am looking at is simply where it all landed on the digital page. The photos, too (by Nikolai Burlakoff) would of course show up better in print.