Book Reviews of Overwinter
by Jamella Hagen
by Dana Johnson
by Benjamin Schell
by Susanna J. Mishler
publisher: University of Alaska Press
distribution: University of Chicago Press Books
Jeremy Pataky's debut collection encounters the wildness of the far north and the self in a context of familial and romantic love. Remote settings provide both a solace and challenge where the speaker's aloneness resists loneliness in full, and fully imagined, places. This is not a static vision, though; the present harkens back to a verdant but distant past. Nor is it a silent world. These poems reconcile the natural quiet and sounds of wilderness with the clamor of built environments. These poems bridge the urban and rural, unifying them through an eros that is by turns fevered and serene. The book is haunted by all those the poet has loved, and they survive in the hidden places sculpted by language.
Praise for the book:
Emerson suggests that “genius is the activity that repairs the decay of things.” Such genius is at work in Jeremy Pataky’s debut, Overwinter. Easy to forget that the effort of utmost attention is itself a mystical practice—as if to name all that in the world can be named might restore to truest existence. But the honest poet knows that the repair of the world also requires the brute work of recognizing also those forces of erosion, some necessary, some less so. Pataky is just such an honest poet, thank goodness, for all of us who dwelling in the world also want it to be real, and in whose poems we find an opportunity to become more real ourselves. Such hope requires that we see not only “Today a green inchworm, inching” and the bee that “pollinates the fireweed’s top blossom,” but also fighter jets, also neck ties, also phone calls. To name the world back into presence also opens up those forms of loss no such naming can wholly amend, and so, entwined with the precision of the geographic eye is the painful accuracy of the missing beloved—heart’s wound, soul’s ragged edge that stymies the mind’s power to call back what has gone missing. Such realities give us a book that makes of the heart’s affections a myriad world, where presence and absence intertwine, and the poet is no more than faithful recorder of difficulty and wonder.
—Dan Beachy-Quick, author of Circle's Apprentice; This Nest, Swift Passerine; Mulberry; and A Whaler's Dictionary
Jeremy Pataky’s poems find their ground in Alaska—its woodpiles and stone piles, its fishbones and lichen, its uncrossable creeks. There is an almost ancient attention to what is living in a landscape, and to the scales of human loss. Pataky stays close to the music of silence, turning his gaze to the capsizing boundaries between interior and exterior worlds. We feel his persistent concern with shelter, his awareness of the distances between people, and of the barometric pressures of isolation. Overwinter is an exquisite surveying of depths, a book of immense beauty and witness, its light “forging colors from air.”
—Joanna Klink, author of Excerpts from a Secret Prophecy, Raptus, Circadian, and They Are Sleeping
Overwinter is not just a collection of poems written deeply from a place, it is a book that enacts place. Place engaged with mind and heart, self and love. It is a ruminative book, turning and returning to glacier, bird, river, rain, “you.” At its heart is the long sequence “Fata Morgana,” a mirage at sea that illustrates how any landscape is a collaboration between the real and the imaginary, a poem that explores the difficulties of accurate perception as well as the beauty of that very difficulty.
—Elizabeth Bradfield, author of Approaching Ice and Interpretive Work