Dean Olson's poems remember the past vividly, look forward clearly

The title of Dean Olson's new poetry collection, Crossing, refers to passage. The poems can be read as a narrative about the passage from youth and the past into the present and then into old age and the future.

What makes these poems so worth rereading, in addition to their words and their feelings, is their finely described details. The poet remembers his father by describing the red plaid Pendleton he has inherited, which carries the faint scent of whiskey and tobacco. One recurring image is that of his boyhood bedroom in the attic. It was the refuge of a dreamer, the nest of a future poet. Details give these poems a strong sense of place, whether the place be a childhood home, a forest, a meadow, the shoreline, or the open sea. Many of the poems celebrate the seductive lure of the ocean.

Olson remembers the hard work of birthing a calf and clearing away stumps. He remembers poverty, which “held us still as if an unnamed dread had hold of us.” He also remembers love and sex throughout his life, from early lessons in touching at dancing lessons (“we…felt waists being held, sampled the scent of one another”), to more sophisticated touching (“Marlene would take my hand under her shirt to the wonderful softness growing there”), to later memories of mature love, “when in a single breath we became unhinged, inspired by the song and touch of nakedness in darkened gardens.” Love remains into older years, “late in the season, well past the springtime of exploration, the time for taking chances.”

In the collection's title poem, “Crossing,” Olson asserts that the transition into age brings relief, freedom, and loss. He describes his recently retired neighbor: “The weight lifted, he is unburdened, light-headed, dismayed, grounded.” Indeed many of these poems are about the late years and days of life, when “the time has finally come, the state of calm for which he waited.”

Dean Olson has published eight poetry collections. He taught at universities in Hong Kong, Alaska, and Canada, and is emeritus faculty of The Evergreen State College, where he led seminars in economics, cultural studies, and maritime history. He has sailed the Galapagos Islands, the Pacific Ocean, and the Gulf of Alaska, and spent months with students on the Salish Sea. He lives in Olympia, Washington near his children and grandchildren. His poems have appeared in Cascade #2, Prairie Schooner, Minotaur, Rattle, Atlanta Review, Windfall, The Innisfree Poetry Journal, vox poetica, unbound CONTENT, and elsewhere.

Dean Olson
ISBN 978-156474-4-535-4
80 pages, paperback, $14.00

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