All Fire All Water
Judith Roche's fourth collection of poems, All Fire All Water, consists of four parts. "Rivers Have Memories," the first part, explores nature and our relationship to it. Poems include fish and birds, bees and wolves, storms and the changing of the seasons. Drawing from the Salish Sea, where Roche lives, the Pacific Ocean, and the northern Great Lakes, these poems are steeped in water. But there's plenty of the fire of passion in this collection as well. In "A Bird Caught in the Throat," Roche turns to "The Face of War" and the horrors of unnecessary suffering; e.g., the "blood for oil" the 20th and 21st century have brought us. She writes of a usually well-intentioned friend from her liberal church who says she would torture those who are cruel to animals. In "Hoffa" she invokes a childhood memory of the unthinking pain adults can inflict on children, in this case, James Hoffa (the son, not his famous father) in the 11th grade.
In "The Husbands Sweet," a play on suite, she looks back from a great distance to a marriage both painful and beloved. These poems are in turn ironic, playful, rueful, and humorous, but still keep all of the sorrow intact. There are poems of other assignations after the bitter breakup of the marriage.
The final section is "We Are Stardust," the title taken from the Joni Mitchell song. These poems pose existential questions and explorations of identity and the possibilities of honest communication with others. Roche has a nonverbal, handicapped son and these poems are informed by some of the frustration of communication with him, other than that infused by profound love. She wonders if we can understand the nonverbal language of other creatures, especially crows, and the possibility of bridging the gaps between us and other sentient beings, including ancient beings. In "Linear B" and "Linear A" she tries to understand ancient Greece, the culture and the people, through what we know of their language. In "Metaphors of Dust," she explores where we come from: "As it turns out, we actually are stardust./ I thought it was a metaphor/ of life and space and time./ Apparently, our materials are 13 million years old./ We are star stuff pondering the story/ told in the life of the stars."
Throughout this collection, the poems are infused with the music of the language in careful interplay of assonance and consonance.
Praise For All Fire All Water…
These poems are gathered into four sections. The first grouping—my favorite—focuses on environmental observations and the impact that human activities have on natural processes. From climate change to the great Pacific Garbage Patch to the opening of a wastewater treatment plant, Roche works her magic in astute observation and keen phrasing. She identifies sources of despair and causes for hope, and turns nuggets of real life into apt poetic phrases.
At times she indulges in the playfulness of form—from the elegant “Bee Villanelle” on one page, to the lurching rhymes of a fiend-filled poem called “Autumn Twilight” on the next. The book’s middle sections focus on the violence that happens among us, and on the poet’s past loves.
In the final section, “We Are Stardust,” Roche’s poems probe the transience and continuity of life. Some of these poems are lamentation. Others are songs of praise or possibility.” — Barbara McMichael, The Bellingham Herald, April 30, 2015
Black Heron Press, 9781936364169, 96pp.
Publication Date: April 10, 2015
About the Author
All Fire All Water is Judith Roche’s fourth poetry collection. Her third, Wisdom of the Body, won an American Book Award. She has published widely in various journals and magazines, and has poems installed on several public art projects in the Seattle area. She edited First Fish, First People: Salmon Tales of the North Pacific Rim, which also won an American Book Award. She has conducted workshops around the United States and has taught at several universities. She currently teaches at Richard Hugo House Literary Center. She is a Fellow in the Black Earth Institute, a progressive think tank exploring the links between nature, spirit, and social justice.