Critical Commentary

Veronica Patterson shows a striking use of organic form in her collection of 50 poems, Swan, What Shores? She savors the language as in “Cwm” (“a lozenge of sound”) and “Language Skills.” Her emotion, in variations from regular and supple blank verse to long and short free lines, is subtly registered in events and incidents, personal and dramatic. Her themes, ranging from simple acts (as in “Combing”) to nature and metaphysics, are clear and fresh in narration and imagery.

Charles Guenther, St. Louis Post-Dispatch

Veronica Patterson lives in Loveland and writes poetry that is musical, sophisticated, and fun to read. The imagery here is startlingly fresh, as in a lyric called “This House”: “Ghosts stream from the round attic window, gay as rags / on a kite string.” Patterson often uses a “strategy of excitement,” in order to maintain a high drama: “From one third-floor window, a man dangles a woman / or he caught her as she fell.” And everywhere there is a sense of music: the janitor using a power waxer is a “Partner to the waxer’s slow turns” and the “keeper of long halls.” These lines are from “Custodian,” a meditation in which we realize that we are all custodial” in some important sense.

Review of Swan, What Shores? Peter Thorpe, Rocky Mountain News

Patterson’s “I” is radiant: “I stand in the corner of light, / cold-tongued and astonished” (“Winter Dessert”). Or this: “pulling the white sheet / over your bare shoulder / I marry you again” (“Marry Me”).

Review of Swan, What Shores? Tom D’Evelyn, The Providence Sunday Journal

In “Language Skills”--a prose poem whose epigraph by Kierkegaard warns us against “the sin of poeticizing,”--Patterson injects a rhythmic fluidity of line into what might otherwise be prose: “When I was seventeen / and walked on a hill in spring outside Ithaca, / I stepped on blue flowers whose name I didn’t know / because for once the slope was ‘carpeted with flowers.’” “I Want to Say Your Name” is a fine love poem that plays off a conversation between Jesus and Mary and ends: “And the wind blew between the letters. / Stars hung low over the peaks of the M / and in the a, a world orbited.”

The poet deals deftly with grief in “Hush”--an apt title because it is what a mother tells a fretting child. The child’s breath and music connect in the last lines of the poem: “Do you wait somewhere in a small cool room for breath / to make you flesh again or music?”

Review of Swan, What Shores? Carlos Reyes, Bibliofiles

Many poems may be from the author’s perspective, yet they are described from a delicate distance. She occasionally uses flexible line patterns, keeping always a sturdy thread of thought-provoking mental pictures. Some poems consist of matter-of-fact realism, while others border on the metaphysical. All of it winds around an intimate world with transparent layers of symbolism and universal meaning.

Patterson is a delightful, strong poet. Her poems do not disappoint at the end and are consistently well-poised. This book has work worth sharing, reciting, and remembering.

Review of Swan, What Shores? Aimee Merizon, Fore Word

For Patterson, the Entities are sometimes birds, sometimes snows--or sleep, or the form of a music box or a janitor. Whatever their guise, they are almost always, as the poet writes, “slivers that prick us into being.” ...

“Awakening to being is the recurrent theme. The poems are always alert to the life of things and the revelation of spirit they may contain. Maple syrup dripped on snow in “sweet tracery” places the speaker in a “corner of light / cold tongued and astonished.” ...

For its depth of spirit, and for its beauty, readers will want to search out this remarkable book.

Review of Swan, What Shores? Evan Oakley, The Montserrat Review