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Nancy Simpson's LIVING ABOVE THE FROST LINE, New and Selected Poems was published by Carolina Wren Press (N.C. Laureate Series, 2010.) She is the author of ACROSS WATER and NIGHT STUDENT, State Street Press, still available on WWW at Alibris and Books Again. Her poems have been published in Southern Poetry Review, Prairie Schooner, The Georgia Review and other literary magazines. "Carolina Bluebirds" was published in THE POETS GUIDE TO THE BIRDS, Anhinga Press). "Grass" was reprinted in the 50th Anniversary Issue of Southern Poetry Review: DON'T LEAVE HUNGRY ( U.of Arkansas Press.) Seven poems were reprinted in the textbook, SOUTHERN APPALACHIAN POETRY,(McFarland.) Two poems were published in SOLO CAFE, Two more poems were published in SOLO NOVO."In the Nantahala Gorge" was published in Pisgah Review. "Studying Winter" was reprinted in Pirene's Fountain Anthology and "The Collection" in Collecting Life Anthology. Most recently, Southern Poetry Review Edited by James Smith, published "Our Great Depression," and The Southern Poetry Anthology Vol. VII: NORTH CAROLINA,Edited by William Wright, reprinted "Leaving in the Dead of Winter."

Monday, June 6, 2011


Heart of a Mountain Woman, June 3, 2011
This review is from: Living Above the Frost Line: New and Selected Poems (Paperback)

Nancy Simpson's book of new and selected poems, out last year from Carolina Wren Press, covers a lifetime as woman and poet, from 1977 to 2009. 

Early on, Simpson takes up the image of water, water "in which memories converge." In "Water in the Highway," she writes that "Water on the pavement moves before me/Witch water, I say, as though some sorceress waits/snapping her crooked fingers." Yet this water is real, whether visible or not, and she writes of driving home, "knowing as I go/I will have to cross water to get there." Crossing water, in many traditions, is a way to shake off ghosts, and spirits too pervade these poems, from those dead in wrecks and dead in war to those who accepted death in readiness for communion with God. 

These poems sing of solitude, that lovely twin of loneliness, that has the poet declare she will "sit here until someone tells me different,/afraid everything is going to fall." In another poem, Simpson writes that "Sometimes you get what you asked for,/to be left alone," the opening to a poem that ends, "Rubble from lives in one lifetime passes before me./This is the end, the new start,/rock I remember, and clay soft beneath my feet." 

And these poems sing of family. I was particularly taken by "Sharing the Bed With Mother" in which the women make themselves narrow, and sleep on the stones of lies. "This could go on all night,/my wanting to build a bridge/and tear it down, and build it back again." 

Ultimately, however, it is about the mountains. Images of soil and rock and weather shape these poems, and they are adorned by trees and flowers and the living creatures that make up a beautiful but demanding place. Simpson echoes Whittier in "Storm," as a snow storm closes out the world and she learns that "there are things worse than being all alone in a blizzard." 

The title poem closes the book, and it is a poem of affirmation - against all odds, against war and abandonment and loss and struggle, the writer returns to the image of what will, or won't grow above the frost line. "Along the mulched path, it's clear/experts are wrong. Red nasturtiums bloom./Here in my garden/knockout roses still bloom their hearts out."


Joan Ellen Gage said...

An excellent review, Nancy. Wonderful!

Nancy Simpson said...

Thanks Joan Ellen, It is good to hear from you.

Glenda said...

I loved Valerie's reveiw of you book, Nancy. She did an excellent job of showing the reader some of the best poems.