Field Folly Snow
by Cecily Parks
The VQR Poetry Series / University of Georgia Press, $16.95 (paper)

Cecily Parks’s debut collection is a rigorous, gorgeous investigation of self, desire, and simple human need. Her richly landscaped lyrics read as part personal history, part universal lore, and, more often than not, suggest chosen extremity: “to be defined / by mountains, rivers and sage; to build / where snow comes early and lasts.” Cold places, “drought years” and dust bowls hint at their psychological counterparts—subsistence on lack, existential hunger—as in “Luna Moth,” where Parks writes: “If only you could teach me / survival without sustenance, unworried / love, how to find oneself at a window / one morning and think nothing of what happens next.” Her tightly-crafted phrasing serves as both decoration and ballast, leaving the reader amused and riveted at once, as in “Letter to the Horsebreaker,” wherein “Snaffle, grackle, kimblewick” precedes “why teach carriage rather than flight, to step backward rather than turn from the hand that touches you.” A number of totem animals wanders through the wilderness of these poems—horses, goats, calves, lambs, dogs; the feral, the wary: “the animal demurs, is perfection, is diminishing, does not pause to look back.” But even as the speakers throughout Field Folly Snow borrow strength and defense from the wild, their desire remains undeniably human. The book’s opening one-line poem, “The Wish for a Garden,” states, simply, “I could grow old again,” and the penultimate poem, “The Wish for a Field,” also a single line, admits, “Were I loved, I would be braver.” Stripped-down admissions like these imbue a sense of urgency and necessity through the work, leading the reader to feel grounded in terrain more familiar than it might at first appear. Moreover, despite the work’s insistence on shoring up one’s strength, Parks does not shrink from admitting fear and vulnerability, or from the possibility that one makes room for fulfillment by letting go: “It’s easy // to divine undoing— / flood all the unknowns with your fear . . . forsake your grip / on the helm as the sky / becomes sea . . . and you’ll / hear hoofbeats, love approaching.”