Author: Denise Low
Publisher: Red Mountain Press (2014)
Denise Low's Mélange Block maps a vivid landscape of Native American and settler lives. High Plains country, volcanic fields, wine country, and ghost towns are among the sites where Low casts spells of her beautifully felt language. Natural processes, like crystallization and aggregation, appear as topics and then reflect in the language itself, which becomes its own geography. Through her lens, the American continent patterns a new poetics in this innovative work. Very conscious of her identities as a person of Native and European heritages, she navigates through past and future until they join in one continuous history. Rain Taxi's reviewer said of her work, it is "surgical with the familiar and charming with the ancient." Midwest Review of Books notes her "talent for tilling the surface and digging deep beneath topsoil to unearth legacies."
"Denise Low's poems have the effect of intensifying everything: nature, history, even the present moment. Her language has had its soft fascia removed from around the muscular nouns, verbs and vivid images. 'Particles vibrate,' she says and shows, 'inside limestone ledges.' These are tough poems, in which every single word has an edge. That's the message, here, whether the subject is ancestry or 'fog over asphalt.' Take the eye of the backyard fox. Take the silicate grasses. Line by line, Denise Low elevates and thereby honors the details of our lives and our land. She has created poetry anew, right in our midst; as she, herself, would vividly say, 'Weathered outbuildings shelter crazy prophets.'"
"'Aim for the eye,' Denise Low writes and in her poetry, she constantly threads the most precise images through the the sturdy music of each poem's world. Low speaks with intelligence, art, and originality. Altogether, the poems in this collection delve into the nuances of various elements of a life to show us an expanded understanding of the layers of reality. 'May all our bones rest in peace,' Low writes at the end of 'Flint Hill Lullabies,' showing us how history travels in our bones and the bones of wherever we live."
"Revealing a highly observant eye and sensitive ear, this mélange (mixture of styles, shapes, colors, or rock matrix) deals honestly with a landscape of subjects—from growing old to a family freezing one bitter winter to Dega 'rasping / charcoal against grained paper.' Their clarity and compression encompass us all."
–Mary Harwell Sayler