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Reviewed by Jack Magnus for Readers' Favorite
What the River Knows: Conversations with the Natural World is a collection of poems written by Andrea Freeman. Freeman is a naturalist and an educator, as well as a poet, harpist and artist, whose company, Awakening Wonder Edventures (AWE), teaches nature appreciation in the field. Her poems celebrate nature in all its wealth and variety, and she often intertwines her reflections on her own life and mortality with the natural processes she witnesses on her outings. Her opening poem, The Swan, is rich in visual imagery and contrasts of the swan's form, shape and movements in the water’s reflection as the poet exhorts her audience to find their own purpose within those images.
In Murmuration of Starlings, the poet employs gerunds, repetition and simile to bring alive the flowing motion of starlings as they swoop and swirl at dusk: "They glided in as speckled gusts of wind,/joining, parting,/joining again,/then swirled together, en masse, across the sky,/moving as both a particle and a wave;/like light,/they wove the air/into a tapestry of wings;/like light.” The reader can't help but visualize the endless motions conveyed in this richly nuanced and compelling piece. The poet also adds to the complexity of this poem through her use of physics and cosmological concepts as seen above in the "particle and wave" reference and later on: "Coiling and uncoiling,/a nebula sung into being out of interstellar beaks and wings,/now a galaxy of starlings.../As I watched them, formed out of stardust myself.”
Each of the poems in What the River Knows invites the reader to another natural feast for the senses. There are walks along sandy tropical beaches, adorned with shells and sea hearts, conversations with aged trees, and a poem celebrating the poet's unspoken communion with a fox sharing a perfect meadow for an early evening's rest. Freeman's poems seem to slow down the busy hustle and pace of the modern world and invite a few moments of quiet retrospection and renewal, a rejoining and re-dedication of self within the natural world. And, along the way, there are wonders and delights to be explored. What the River Knows: Conversations with the Natural World is most highly recommended.