The Creative Works of Andrea Freeman
The book ‘What the River Knows: Conversations with the Natural World’ by author Andrea Freeman
Freeman’s new poetry collection offers an unabashed paean to nature.
Perfect for a backyard hammock or quiet moment in the great outdoors, this book uses lyrical descriptions of creatures
and landscapes to celebrate the mysteries of the wild world. Beauty is pre-eminent—a virtue—and omnipresent; readers
just have to know where to look and when to be watchful. “Today, it was the fish who were my teachers,” begins the
poem “Rainbow Trout.” Under the rough surface “is a place of refuge.” The poet believes in the totemlike aspects of
animals and their ability to carry messages. Her portrait of the pileated woodpecker working a dead trunk for food, for
example, sees the bird as a harbinger of optimism in a challenging world. After he “chiseled the tree from different
angles,” a lesson emerged: “See how it’s possible / to find nourishment / in what is broken, / beauty in decay?” This sort
of reverence for nature’s teachings fills the book to bursting. Even the growth pattern of a wild geranium gives form to
worshipful attention: “And so I point my storksbill seedpod / to the breathing hole of sky, / and uncoil my seed dreams /
into the honey nectar of the heart, / to take root and flower.” Scientific knowledge informs the poems in the specific
habitats and animal behaviors noted, but cultural legends (Egypt’s “special feather of Maat” that determines one’s
afterlife) and mystical moments (“Blow the wind of your soul’s knowing into place”) also matter. Anthropomorphosis
represents yet another way of knowing. In “Red-tailed Hawk Messenger,” for instance, a hawk’s cry takes phonetic
shape, “Kree-eee-ar!” / Kree-eee-ar!” but also an English translation: “ ‘Speak up for yourself! / Speak up for what is
true!’ / he cried, / his voice filling the hollows.” However readers find it, a sense of awe promises the best connection to
the larger universe: “There are no doors to a meadow / but one crosses a threshold to enter.”
For its openness to natural wonders, this poetry volume humbles and delights.”
– Kirkus Reviews
San Francisco Book Review
Star Rating: 5 / 5
The many and varied wonders of nature have long been fodder for poets. Think of Walt Whitman, Joyce Kilmer, Emily Dickinson, and many more. This collection of poems by Andrea Freeman—a naturalist, writer, artist, and more—will comfortably find a place among other nature poets and their works. Freeman examines a wide range of fauna—foxes, dragonflies, California condors, rainbow trout, coyotes, and others—and flora—jasmine, oak leaves, storksbill geraniums—as well as rocks, water, and beyond into the firmament. Her love of all things found in the natural world is apparent in every line, every careful word choice, and every image in her lyrical, mostly unrhymed work. Her personal observations inform every poem, as seen in these lines from “The Fox Meadow”:
“They walk as softly as shadows
crossing a meadow, foxes do —
their ears perked, listening.”
The skill with which Freeman takes her readers along on her forays into the wilderness is really astounding. Her descriptions are rich and personal and paint such pictures, as in these lines in “Reflections on a Rainy Day”:
“The curling mustache of mosses and ferns
unfurled into a festoon of freshly moistened smiles.”
Certainly Freeman’s attributes as artist, writer, and naturalist can be seen all over this collection, and her attributes as a self-described mystic show up often as well with lines such as, “Blow the wind of your soul’s knowing into place” from the poem “Tongues of Fire.”
Poet Freeman has written a highly personal collection and readers will feel they come to know her and what is important to her as well as how she approaches the wonders and magic found in the natural world. At the same time, it is completely accessible and open enough that a reader can bring his or her own experience to the collection and find ways to relate those experiences to many of these verses. This is a lovely work that deserves a wide readership.
– San Francisco Book Review
Foreword Clarion Review
These evocative poems express kinship with nature, and are musical and rich in their language.
What the River Knows: Conversations with the Natural World by Andrea Freeman is a meditative poetic exploration of the flora, fauna, and natural phenomena that surround us.
Poems in the collection range from joyous celebrations of the natural world to moral messages about human interactions with it. Throughout, the poet maintains evocative intensity. Freeman writes in the vein of the Romantic poets, looking to the natural world for inspiration, understanding, and consolation.
Poems are musical and rich in their language. The poems’ speaker reaches out toward the world, giving detailed attention to naming specific species and, at times, deriving a mystical euphoria from what she witnesses in her environment.
Observing the stars emerge after sunset, the speaker notes that “formed out of stardust myself / I considered how foolish it is to think we ever stand alone.” The speaker’s own struggles to unite with her environment echo many of the poem’s overarching messages about humanity’s impact on the world and the power and price of our place within it.”
A naturalist, educator, and environmental activist, Andrea Freeman brings all of her hats to her poems.
Situated somewhere between the Romantics and Wendell Berry, Freeman’s poems will appeal to anyone who has been moved by nature, whether those feelings are ones of kinship or questioning. The lyricism and precise description in Freeman’s work transport, even as she pushes for language to capture the greater mysteries underlying it all.
— Letitia Montgomery-Rodgers
Foreword Clarion Reviews
What the River Knows: Conversations with the Natural World is a collection of poems written by Andrea Freeman. Her poems celebrate nature in all its wealth and variety, and she often intertwines her reflections on her own life and mortality with the natural processes she witnesses on her outings. Her opening poem, The Swan, is rich in visual imagery and contrasts of the swan’s form, shape and movements in the water’s reflection as the poet exhorts her audience to find their own purpose within those images.
In Murmuration of Starlings, the poet employs gerunds, repetition and simile to bring alive the flowing motion of starlings as they swoop and swirl at dusk: “They glided in as speckled gusts of wind,/joining, parting,/joining again,/then swirled together, en masse, across the sky,/moving as both a particle and a wave;/like light,/they wove the air/into a tapestry of wings;/like light.” The reader can’t help but visualize the endless motions conveyed in this richly nuanced and compelling piece. The poet also adds to the complexity of this poem through her use of physics and cosmological concepts as seen above in the “particle and wave” reference and later on: “Coiling and uncoiling,/a nebula sung into being out of interstellar beaks and wings,/now a galaxy of starlings…/As I watched them, formed out of stardust myself.”
Each of the poems in What the River Knows invites the reader to another natural feast for the senses. There are walks along sandy tropical beaches, adorned with shells and sea hearts, conversations with aged trees, and a poem celebrating the poet’s unspoken communion with a fox sharing a perfect meadow for an early evening’s rest. Freeman’s poems seem to slow down the busy hustle and pace of the modern world and invite a few moments of quiet retrospection and renewal, a rejoining and re-dedication of self within the natural world. And, along the way, there are wonders and delights to be explored. What the River Knows: Conversations with the Natural World is most highly recommended.
— Jack Magnus
What the River Knows: Conversations with the Natural World” is an exquisite book of poetic expression by Andrea Freeman. Inspired by her experiences in nature, Ms. Freeman articulates insightful, spiritual reflection in such a way as to willingly captivate her audience.
Each poem holds dear a deep and profound love for the world around us. From the marvels of wildlife, the beauty of the sun, moon, and stars, the colors and textures of the landscape, and the patterns and currents of the streams and seas, there is something that will call to the heart of every being to awaken with wonder and amazement.
I find peace and tranquility most effortless when I am in nature, whether in the mountains, on a beach, or even tending the garden in my own backyard. Just being in the great outdoors inspires deep respect, wonder, and awe. At times, such reflection can intimidate, and overwhelm – we are but a tiny speck in this great universe. Freeman has a way of stating these realities as well, with forthrightness and thoughtful deliberation, realizing that everyone and everything in this world has a time and a season.
Freeman takes awareness, appreciation, and gratitude of our great Earth to a whole other level, sharing some of the deepest, most sincere reflections I have ever witnessed. Her passion for nature, her dedication to the preservation of this world for future generations, and her rhythmical way with the written word is certain to inspire anyone to step out into the world with a new, refreshing viewpoint.
I found “What the River Knows: Conversations with the Natural World” by Andrea Freeman to be a unique treasure, that should be enjoyed over and over again. It would be a great book for a reading group or poetry club, and all fans of poetry and nature. Anyone so inclined to lose themselves in an array of extraordinary experiences should indulge in a copy of this book.
— Sheri Hoyte
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