Hot tip: Wanting It, by Brattleboro-based Diana Whitney, is a volume of poems that may make you beg for more. This debut from Brownsville's Harbor Mountain Press burns with intensity and observations clarified by desire.
Collectively, these narrative poems chart a woman's experience moving through the landscape of Vermont's Northeast Kingdom and beyond. The book's first sequence of poems begins in Peckerville, a fictional one-pickup-truck town located "at the intersection of dust and corn." Here, in the least populated part of the state, the narrator, a rural siren, "tried on men like dresses," she recalls. But the speaker's flaunted singularity soon gives way to poems that admit to a different kind of longing. In "Making Babies," she encounters "Leah & her 6-month belly ... sit[ting] proud in the tight bib of her overalls / ... / One baby, two babies, / three babies by winter, & I'm falling farther behind," the speaker laments.
In addition to portraying a young woman moving stealthily toward marriage and family, the poems evoke a love affair with place. Whitney's descriptions caress location. In Maine, she writes, a cabin's dark is "a lake made of blankets"; "[a] fish in the hand is an electrical charge, / wet life twitching for water," and you hear the "[r]ustle of the stashed sail / rolled around the mast."
More frequently, though, Whitney conjures the quieter quarters of Vermont, pinning down each season's sensuous beauties. Local readers will recognize the "knee-deep" buttercups and "drenched clover" of May; late summer's "yellow fist apples / blackberry thumbs, wild ginger / glazing the cedar woods"; and the great body of winter sliding ecstatically from the roof: "two hundred pounds of deep wet snow / rumbling the pitch like thunder."
Whitney reads at the Burlington Book Festival on Saturday, September 20, 3 p.m., at the Fletcher Room, Fletcher Free Library. Free.