Elizabeth Gauffreau’s Reviews > The Salty River Bleeds

Elizabeth Gauffreau’s Reviews > The Salty River Bleeds

The Salty River Bleeds
by Stephen Page
Elizabeth Gauffreau‘s review 


It was amazing!


Stephen Page’s poetry collection The Salty River Bleeds continues the story of eco-rancher Jonathan and his wife Teresa begun in A Ranch on the Salty River. In the opening poem, “Jonathan Goes to Search for It at Sunset,” he is still searching for The Myth, but “Once again he is left standing / some hundreds of meters from Wood / because he finds his pants are much too thin / to cross the lots with thistle.” This poem sets the warp and weft of Jonathan’s search for meaning in middle age as the collection unfolds. 

These poems are finely-crafted and accessible, with a compelling voice. Page employs a range of poetic forms, including the epistolary ”Dear Nephew” and “Dear Father,” the prose poem “On a Breath-Mist Morning,” and the confessional “Your Violet Hair Ribbon.” I liked how the use of different forms left me a little off-balance as a reader, not knowing quite what to expect–which echoes Jonathan’s life on the ranch. 

The conflict Jonathan struggles with is between obligation and personal fulfillment: the compromises we have to make to earn a living and meet family obligations–and the emotional and spiritual cost these compromises can sometimes bring. In Jonathan’s case, the cost is the necessity to harden himself to carry on his constant battle with dishonest and malingering ranch employees. As he notes in “Tattler, Too”:

My armor is intact.
I had reason it keep it on. 
. . . . 
I have learned to lie and I don’t like it.

I didn’t realize until my second reading that Obligation is actually personified in the introduction to the collection, “Proem”: 

His hair is black, as are his eyes, beard, suit, and tie.
He holds a folded newspaper under his arm.
He smiles at the Beauty of Ranch.

I read A Ranch on the Salty River, immediately followed by The Salty River Bleeds. I would encourage other readers to do the same. The first book introduces us to Jonathan and provides glimpses into his thoughts and desires as he works the land in a foreign country to make a living. The Salty River Bleeds gives us his dark night of the soul. Will Jonathan emerge from his dark night to live in Wood, where he belongs? The penultimate poem of the collection, “The Salty River,” provides his vision of “the End”:

The Cultivators were nowhere to be seen,
their noxious machinery fumes and pesticides 
not clouding the air or poisoning the Earth. 
The Gauchos were all in their homes
With their families, eating, or drinking mate.

However, the closing poem of the collection, “Ennui: Old Man,” suggests not: 

I never see him stopped.,
sitting down, or drinking coffee
in a truck stop.
He is always walking, 
always walking.” 

For me, the best poetry is experienced viscerally first. It then resonates to the heart and continues resonating until it reaches the head. This is just how I experienced The Salty River Bleeds. Jonathan stayed with me for days after I finished reading the book. Kudos to the poet!

Elizabeth Gauffreau

http://lizgauffreau.com/

It Transports You to Location

New review on Amazon:

Highly recommend The Salty River Bleeds

The Salty River Bleeds is another terrific creation by Stephen Page. It transports you to location with descriptions of nature and imagery. Wonderful poetry! My book magically disappeared and it turns out my teenage daughter had taken it and left it in her room. She also loved it! I highly recommend Stephen’s sophisticated poems.

 

With a Language that Flies Straight to the Truth

 

The Salty River Bleeds by Stephen Page

This is genuine good writing. This is not a walk in the gew gaw shop of strained emotions and overreaching images. This is writing carved from the raw material of actual living and work. There are narratives and there are lyrics with each word penetrating its subject like the point of a knife. There are good guys and there are bad guys and they are all exposed with a language that flies straight to the truth. “How long did you take to flay those sheep whose skins lie so limply wet in your truck?” Pay attention. This guy, Stephen Page, is going to make some noise in the shining cathedral of poetry.

 

–Rustin Larson, author of Library Rain https://rustinlarson.wordpress.com

Book: https://www.finishinglinepress.com/product/the-salty-river-bleeds-by-stephen-page/

Page’s Writing is as Gritty as the Sandy Prairie

Review: The Salty River Bleeds by Stephen Page

Length: 96 Pages

Publisher: Finishing Line Press

Get your copy on Amazon! 

 

The Salty River Bleeds by Stephen Page is a story told in verse about the lives of Jonathan and Teresa and the ranch on which they live. Using both poetry and poetic prose, the author makes the story come to life.

Page’s writing is as gritty as the sandy prairie and he does not shy away from coarse language or difficult topics. Page has created something raw and gritty that is full of local flavor. The reader can feel the heat of the pounding sun and smell the scent of the farm animals. Life on the ranch is hard and oftentimes painful; as such, Page’s writing will cause readers who would prefer to imagine an idealized version of the American West to be uncomfortable. His writing forces his readers to reckon with the harsh realities of life and how we treat the environment.

As the story progresses, the protagonist must deal with both the daily challenges of life on the ranch as well as his own internal struggles. There are no easy answers, and as such, the book leaves the reader with an unsettled feeling. It is this same discomfort that makes the book so powerful and so memorable. I found myself slowly reading and rereading Page’s words as I worked to understand their multiple layered meanings. In the end, Page takes his reader on a journey into America’s heartland as well as into our problematic past. Is there a future for Jonathan, Teresa, and their ranch? Or will the Salty River, along with the rest of the natural world, continue to bleed?

Salty, Earthy and Thoughtful

The Salty River Bleeds” by Stephen Page

Review by Aria Ligi

Page’s collection, Salty River Bleeds, is a two-part parable, one of the lives of Jonathon and Teresa and the other of his ranch, its inhabitants, the environ consisting of his cows, sheep, ibis and such and their struggle against the exteriors (man encroaching on them all). Yet, it is also, as he pictures so beautifully, mirrored with Old Man, who through the simple the challenge of living day to day, is a metaphor for it all. Pages’ work embodies very Campbellesque qualities of the myth told within the confines of free verse, epistles, and alternatively spiced with rhyme. Page is not only a mythmaker he is rancher poet-activist who is wise enough to question his place within the tale, that of hunter and farmer, while portraying in stark terms the cost to those around him from his livestock to the earth, air, those who would shepherd it, and those who would seek to profit from it. This is a fascinating read because it does not shy away from depicting the most hideous of things, such as the roof of a truck slicing through a man’s neck, nor does it distance itself from the beauty that is all around him. Yet, Page does not leave it there, because at the end he returns us to his quiet pondering, that of Teresa and Old Man, leaving us with the mirror image for us all and the unsaid question, are we all not walking that same road, and in that are we not all one and the same?

Publisher – Finishing Line Press

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