Shade of Blue Trees
ISBN 10: 1948767147
ISBN 13: 9781948767149
In Kelly Cressio-Moeller’s debut poetry collection, “Shade of Blue Trees,” this expert scene-setting writer takes the readers through a gallery of art. Between her use of the line and white space, and the typesetters use of font and page spacing, the collection turns from one artifact to another; a glimpse of color here, a change in medium there, all culminating in four life-size paneled poems, showing how the seasons change around the speaker’s grief and how the grief morphs, ebbs, and flows within each season.
The collection is divided into four sections, each around a seasonal theme, although that isn’t obvious at first. In winter, we learn the speaker is coping with the sudden deaths of both her parents. The colors around us are plum, seafloor black, white, and ghost blue. The writer uses scent as her primary sensory detail, and focuses on stars, recurring imagery, and voice. We are transported into a world of revolving grief.
From there, we move to spring, summer, and end in a celestial autumn. Colors like gray and pink alert us of spring, with poems about body image in loss like “Double Helix” or crushes on trees like “Begin & End at Big Sur.” Summer is filled with red rose petals, hoof prints, barking sea lions, and mustering lilacs. Poems like “Sacrament” juxtapose warm weather imagery like watermelons with last breaths; a lover’s first embrace under Virgin Mary in “Still Life with Persimmons.” Autumn brings in magenta and cold snaps, poems like “Suburban Aubade with French Horn” that heighten the writer’s sensory work. Each section showing the way in which the speaker learns of a new self in loss.
Place is the strongest character, oscillating between Californian and German landscapes. In poems like “White Stone” we feel the very presence of the sea, the salty air, the deep canyons, and huge trees of California. “On Why I No Longer Sit at the Window Seat on a Train” brings the reader clearly through the urban landscape of central Germany. The two worlds in which Cressio-Moeller has occupied are brought front and center as the speaker moves through the seasonal times, and readers are reminded of how important landscape is to our processing and, eventually, our creating.
“I lack the luster that my lilacs/can muster at any time of the year” opens arguably the central poem of the collection, “Panels from a Blue Summer.” Once again the reader is woven in and around painted murals of the speaker’s consciousness, this time in hot, sticky summer, under the shade of blue trees. In this poem, the speaker plays with words and musicality stronger than any of the earlier poems. An evolution of understanding loss and solitude comes to a head in this artful example of words in murals. “She tucks her/wings and dives” ends the poem with just enough added white space to accentuate the deep dive the speaker is taking.
Trees are central to the mystical world of self-actualization and immense grief that Kelly Cressio-Moeller takes the readers on in her debut, as the title suggests, but the imagery doesn’t stop there. With senses heightened and colors abound, the reader moves through a year of internal depth, delight, distraction, and destruction with a reliable narrator and keen eye for color. Picking up this collection will remind readers that our inner pool for sorrow runs deep, but the world around us is there with buoyancy.
ZOEY GULDEN is an editor and nonfiction writer living in Saint Paul, Minnesota. She is currently writing her thesis for her MFA at Hamline University. She is the assistant nonfiction editor for Water-Stone Review and the managing editor with Arcata Press. By day, she serves coffee and scones at Colossal Cafe on Grand Avenue and dabbles in some freelance copyediting.