Review: Sweetgrass

Eric Shonkwiler
Jun 28, 2016 · 2 min read
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Micah Ling
Poetry, prose poems
66 pages
5” x 7” perfect-bound trade paperback
ISBN 978–1–934513–25–5
First Edition
Sunnyoutside
Buffalo, New York, USA
Available HERE
$13.00
Review originally published on 7/7/14


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When I see a book like Sweetgrass, by Micah Ling, I’m reminded of the powerful effect that a beautifully bound book can have on its reader. It’s a slim volume, reflecting the spare, almost utilitarian poems inside. Similarly, its simple, geometric cover art reflects the surprisingly vast sprawl and heft of Ling’s words. In Sweetgrass, Ling gives us untitled, mostly short, mostly prose, poems about life in Montana. The poems rarely tackle heavy issues head-on, instead choosing to circle them, leading the reader about them like a pair of hands working a herd. In one such poem, a cow is found mortally ill or wounded:

Back with the herd, the girl feeds the calf skim milk
twice each day. Yellow gave twelve good calves,
and this one knows her line […]
This is instinct: milk and tears.

In another, Ling renders a scene of celebration among strangers at a restaurant:

There is humor here, too:

And fun, swimming, teasing bears. With all of the subjects Ling touches on, the most constant is perhaps less addressed than all the others. Work, in one form or another, is the underlying subject of nearly everything. The death in the first poem, and the joy in the last, are all connected to sweat and toil. This is true of most places, but Ling gives the reader a unique and stirring account of the workings of the people and land of Montana, and Sweetgrass is a wonderful addition to that geography.

The Coil

Literature to change your lightbulb.

Eric Shonkwiler

Written by

Author of Above All Men and 8th Street Power & Light, novels from @mwgothic, and Moon Up, Past Full, stories from @altcurrent.

The Coil

The Coil

Literature to change your lightbulb.

Eric Shonkwiler

Written by

Author of Above All Men and 8th Street Power & Light, novels from @mwgothic, and Moon Up, Past Full, stories from @altcurrent.

The Coil

The Coil

Literature to change your lightbulb.

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