Friday, March 31, 2017

Review for BLUFFING

BLUFFING, the collection of odes to river and rock by Dick Stahl, is one of those books that beg to be read more than once so every drop of nuance can to be discovered and savored.

Stahl and his wife, Helen, dedicated 10 years to personally climb, photograph, and poetize the 24 publicly accessible bluffs of the upper Mississippi River. The result is a gorgeous volume that pleases the eye and the heart with flowing style and content.

Many of the poems reminded me of my own visits to some of the same parks. I have the urge to go back and experience those vistas of water winding its way around islands and sandbars all over again. Now I have Stahl to enhance the fabric of my memories with his photos and words.  

“What generosity for the old settler to share his bluff with friends and say everything without saying a single word …”     (Old Settler of the Bluff)

Or appreciate how he captured the mood of powerful and restless waters.

“The hungry river writes its own story in lush islands, made and unmade, as the swirling sands underneath surface with a line of text that suggests everything and nothing at a glance.”     (River Writer)

That’s how I remember the Des Moines River below Ottumwa, Iowa. Remembered but never articulated.

After reading this book, my viewpoint has changed. I have a better appreciation for such old treasures as Pike’s Peak, Effigy Mounds, the Palisades, and Gramercy Park. I look forward to taking time to search out Pulpit Rock at Bellevue State Park. There’s adventure to be found there outside the tranquil butterfly gardens.

And who is Harriet Goodhue Hosmer? Did she really win a footrace to the top?

I’ll have to believe in Stahl’s version of the story.

Surely, he’s not bluffing.

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