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Review of Jeanie Thompson’s “The Seasons Bear Us”

June 9, 2009 by · No comments

Drew Logan

This is a new book of poetry by Jeanie Thompson, a painter of lush images with words from Alabama. She is the managing director of the Alabama Writers Forum and I was thinking about moving to Alabama until I found out she also teaches at Spalding University in Louisville, Kentucky. I live in Kentucky.

Seeking le mot juste seems to be the guiding principle in Jeanie’s poetry. This is only to be expected, since she teaches poetry writing. I suspect a great deal of effort went into each description, some of which seem as finely tuned as if in Flaubert’s style.

The Seasons Bear Us is a phrase from a letter by James Wright to Laura Lee. I am going to venture way out on a limb here and tell you what I think as the reviewer. Roethke influenced James Wright and he in turn influenced Jeanie Thompson.

Capturing and describing a transitional moment, a phase shift, is an important aspect of Eastern poetry. This is why some discussion of the season is expected in this context. In fact, Eastern poetry is about nature. Jeanie Thompson’s poetry is about nature, transitional moments, the seasons, as well as love, explicit and lavish. Eastern poetry only has the moment as a boundary. Jeanie knows how to do this well with her own poetry. Love sings a song to her and she sings it back to us.

Every poet that I have ever known who went to Italy always came back with an armful of poetry. The light seems to be the attraction. The same is true for this poetry book. There are four poems set in Italy here, one about Nice on the way to Italy. It is only to be expected that they would be about love.

Another love poem centered in Italy is about a friend soon to die reading her a poem over the speaker phone. The last stanza of this poem brought tears to my eyes. I think it will do the same thing every time I read it. It is exceptionally well crafted and full of love. The dying friend is Bill Matthews who wrote “Mood Indigo” and died of a heart attack the day after his 55th birthday. You can listen to him recite “Mood Indigo” at

When I lived in Maine, local people would never give me fiddlehead ferns to eat because I was from away and these ferns were a delicacy reserved for the natives. Jeanie crafts a nice little poem out of harvesting fiddlehead ferns. She also gives us her recipe for cornmeal. No two cornmeal recipes are ever the same. A person’s sweet tea and cornmeal identify him or her as a true Southern cook.

Her dog and cat make brief appearances, the cat particularly brief, as objects of her affection.

She talks about her relationship with her son and how she loves him. She talks about her relationship with a man. This is a very sensual, loving woman.

Vivaldi’s Four Seasons is a favorite piece of music, in particular Winter. If someone makes a documentary called A Year in the Life of a Poet, they should use Vivaldi along with Jeanie reading her poems as background for the visuals. Her winter poems are favorites of mine. They are very well crafted.

The very last thing I need to talk about are her long Whitmanesque lines in several poems where she finds just the right words to paint just the right picture. They are best read aloud.

Read some more of Jeannie’s poetry on her blog, where you can also find information about ordering the book from River City Publishing. If you visit Alabama Writers’ Forum you can find numerous interesting ideas on how to be creative and how to care for others. The forum publishes a literary journal, First Draft.

Buy this book today.

The Seasons Bear Us Poems by Jeanie Thompson
River City Publishing, Montgomery Alabama

Photo: Koshyk

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