Charles Dowling Williams
West Wind Books (2021)
Reviewed by Amy Lignor for Reader Views (01/2022)
I can’t tell you how many details there are behind this collection of memorable works, the poet laureate who penned this material, and even the layout. I mean, for pages where a majority of them offer up one stanza, this is the most in-depth collection of poems I’ve ever had the honor of reading.
First and foremost is the fact that this particular man wrote about a place of intense beauty when it comes to everything from nature to how the “voices” of the area transform with the passing of the seasons. This spoke volumes to me, personally, because I came from such a location. We were not privy to eighteen-wheelers, highway overpasses, or large streets with crowds milling about. I lived in what some thought to be a forgotten place in time. Mother Nature ruled the area and did so with gusto. Our lives were lived around how many feet of snow would be falling that day, or how the Spring rains and Summer heat would affect everything from our outdoor activities to the nature living in congregations all around us. Echo Ridge is, quite definitely, a mirror of the place I grew up in, where spotting a pack of deer or wolves hunting said deer was far more normal than ever seeing more than two cars going down the same country road.
By taking the hand of Charles Williams, I was able to walk alongside him as he built pages of haikus that not only spoke to me but showed me the seasons – the good and the bad that comes with them – in chronological order, exactly how they appear in his home of Echo Ridge. Knowing the background of the poet going in added even more beauty and honesty to his work. Williams, who is actually both a Kentucky lawyer as well as a nationally-recognized tree farmer, created these haikus—never wavering from the Japanese layout—from entries out of his own personal journal. The compilation plays out over a year’s time, and is actually only one of the volumes he’s put together during his creative lifetime.
His brilliant use of words captures the magnificence of nature. Whether he’s speaking about the somberness and deep, freezing numbness that comes in winter, or the beauty and joy that returns when the Spring thaw occurs and life “grows” back to its proper state, Charles never once loses the powerful emotions he feels in his heart.
There are many haikus to read and enjoy, with each set up as a daily calendar stating facts about Kentucky life and the transformation of the earth happening on that particular date. He also adds ’extras’ for some poems that bring knowledge to the reader about various past weather events that hit his area and how a particular haiku was brought to life from these events. Like my own home front, Charles shares the joy he feels for ‘life on the farm’ and is kind enough to be open about everything that’s as exorbitant as the earth’s rage, all the way down to a beloved donkey colt that burst to life on Echo Ridge. Some haikus are melancholy, especially for a farmer who has to deal with a bleak and somewhat desolate year, while others are a look at some of the most beautifully stunning moments in time that leave the reader awestruck. Even something as simplistic as a January sunrise in Kentucky will leave you breathless as you listen with Charles to the: “trains whistle, owls hoot—echo-dancing in deep night—a cold, soundless dawn.” And so much more.
To call this collection ‘savory’ would be an understatement; it is that good and better. Enjoy!