Having done a lot of traveling in Argentina in the past three years, I certainly welcomed reading Stephen Page’s book “The Salty River Bleeds.” His poems and prose-poems follow the lives of a husband and wife who live and work on an Argentinian ranch for a period of time, in that seemingly endless land of cattle-breeding estancias replacing most of the wildlife of the pampas. The other reviewers have for the most part already written whatever I could say, but I do want to add a bit more. I deeply appreciate Page’s scoping in on one of those estancias whose flatline acres I rode through and whose houses and outlying buildings I squinted at mainly from a distance. His near mythic ranch is like a stage with various characters of sometimes unsavory and even brutal traits. Little by little he reveals an entire universe in microcosm, only this one with gauchos; endless gates and fences and fence posts; South American horses, bulls, cows, and calves, and ancient grasses and flowers relentlessly being replaced by soybeans. I like the way the author conveys the gritty reality of cattle ranching while at the same time weaving in the incomparable beauty of what is left of the pampas its flora and fauna. I especially was moved by the poignancy of the book’s last two poems, The Salty River and Old Man, the first with its crescendo-vision of pink flamingos and the second with the old man in black tatters who keeps materializing, walking, forever walking, alongside the road. The Salty River Bleeds is a book containing many evocative and symbolic levels as befits a giant country, attentive to place and spirit of place and how human beings develop in response to that which surrounds them. I highly recommend a ride through Stephen Page’s poetry. – Susan Deer Cloud, Author of “The Way to Rainbow Mountain.”
I want freedom, the right to self-expression, everybody’s right to beautiful, radiant things ~ Emma Goldman
go to Susan Deer Cloud’s website: https://sites.google.com/site/susandeercloud/
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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?
“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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If you teach poetry or creative writing at the introductory level (high school or universty), and are interested in using an anthology for you or your students to use during the semester this coming fall or spring, consider this fine collection of essays: https://www.blacklawrence.com/far-villages-welcome-essays-for-new-and-beginner-poets/
#FarVillages #essaysOnWriting #BlackLawrencePress #AbayomiAnimashaun #DianeGoettel