“Magicicada and Other Marvels” by Kathleen Brewin Lewis

The poems in Magicicada and other Marvels (Shanti Arts LLC 2022), a collection by Georgia poet Kathleen Brewin Lewis, are filled with the magic of Southern flora and fauna as the title suggests, yet they are much more than nature poems. Written with an abiding sense of grace and understated wisdom, these are poems meant to be savored, even studied. Warm and relatable, these are resoundingly well written works where rivers, hiking, children, family, and friends take center stage. A Magicicada is a genus of the periodical cicadas of the Eastern United States. In the poem bearing that word as its name, Lewis observes “Three cicadas left their husks / on the underside of a linen branch, / as if the Rapture had occurred.”

The poet addresses her “dinner table life” and “quotidian body of work” in her poem “The Poetry Reading,” but, readers, make no mistake—these are not ordinary poems. The titles in this collection of sixty-six poems alone prove that. In fact, the captivating titles are worth the price of buying this collection and include such gems as “The Largesse of Morning,” “Lament for the Doused Campfire,” “Fluent in Rivers” “The Only Child Lies Awake during a Windstorm,” “Childhood, Heavy with Hydrangea,” and “By June, the Light Begins to Breathe.”

Opening with a poem titled “Autobiography,” the collection immediately plunges readers into a sensual world of a child’s first love, “the small, soft things.” Soon, our senses are further tickled with “July’s Thick Kingdom” and the cherries with their “bloody juice on the chin.” In “The Shoal Lilies,” a kayak trip reveals the “vagrant peace” of “blooming islands of white lilies.” The delight of smell abounds in “Petrichor” with its “scent / of parched earth after fresh rain.” Again, scent pulls readers into the world of the poem in “Waiting for a Pear to Ripen in Pittsburgh,” where “the breeze / whiffs of oak leaves. The visuals are also lushly described in Lewis’s work. In “Trespass,” for example, we find “magnolia thick with fat white buds.”

Not only does Lewis excel at invigorating our senses, she has a considerable talent for using precise, perfect words to describe things. With her discerning sight and her poet’s ear for sound and meter, she writes of “sullen night,” “remnant light,” “muttering embers,” “disrobing trees,” and “threadbare paths.” Such phrasing adds not only power but beauty to her poems. In one of her enchanting phrases, in “By June, the Light Begins to Breathe,” Lewis pens this line: “Trees / hide children in their leafy arms.”

In terms of format, most poems are free verse, though a few are prose poems. One poem, aptly named “Waxing Poetic,” stands out as structurally different, with its pronounced meter and rhyme:

I saw you slipping out-of-doors

your long stride to the left,

and I have gathered you are filled

with something like regret.

Lewis also uses a different format in two poems, “Downing the Sun” and “Narrow Escape.” These poems contain seven couplets with the last word in the preceding second line rhyming with the second line of the subsequent couplet. However, this rhyme scheme is used only in the first six couplets as the last two lines don’t involve rhyme. When asked about this, she explained these poems were “were the result of a workshop I took from the magical poet Cecilia Woloch. Cecilia had encouraged us to write sonically and rhythmically, focusing more on the sounds of the words and the beat of the lines, rather than meaning.” With that in mind, Lewis added “So I guess it’s just something of my own creation.”

While many poems celebrate a certain joyful abundance, some speak of past and future loss. In “Graveyard,” Lewis writes, “The half-moon is a headstone lodged / in the infinite throat of the night.” In “Peaceful, In Spite of It All,” addressing both the 1864 Battle of Kennesaw Mountain and a 1982 ordinance requiring every household to own a gun, she wisely observes, “Some wars, it seems are / still being fought.” In “Camellias,” a man in hospice measures his decline in watching the blossoms until “they become / the last blooms he ever witnesses.”

Most poems are optimistic and appreciative in tone, yet a few have the qualities of an elegy about them. In “The (Barely) Bearable Heaviness of Being—Fall 2017,” when the “first frost has crept in,” the poem ends in a “hail of bullets, / mushroom cloud.” Heartbreakingly, in “The Last Wild Passenger Pigeon Makes Her Concession Speech,” the pigeon poignantly observes “They hunted us, devoured us. / … / I cooed and clucked into the deep hush. / I have lost the race.” In her elegies for trees, Lewis captures the “weeping without ceasing” of a tree brutally pruned in “Landscape with River Birch.” And in “After the Blight,” about the decimation of the American chestnut trees, she writes of “ghost trees” and recalls “when the trees cast shady alcoves / sheltered songbirds.”

Kathleen Brewin Lewis

Lewis was born and raised in Savannah, Georgia, an early life which is reflected in several of her poems, including “Fluent in Rivers.” She now lives in the Atlanta area. She and her husband have two children, and while they were growing up, she worked as a freelancer with nonprofits. She returned to college with the goal of concentrating on professional, nonfiction writing at the graduate level. But, as she relates in an article in Simply Buckhead, “Well, poetry took over.” Lewis graduated in 2011 and while in school wrote a poem a week for a workshop and then began getting published. She’s also been nominated for the prestigious Pushcart and Best of the Net awards.

A Georgia Master Naturalist who enjoys hiking and the natural world, Lewis is the author of two chapbooks of poetry, Fluent in Rivers and July’s Thick Kingdom. Magicicada & Other Marvels is her first full-length collection.

The Largesse of Morning

 (copyright by Kathleen Brewin Lewis,

Used with Permission)Wake up slender
to faint light
seeping through shutters.

The sun, a freshly-peeled orange,
begins its climb;
dawn spreads out a picnic
on bright cloth.

Breakfast on melon, egg, hope—
grant yourself
reprieve from disbelieving.
Breathe the aroma
of exonerated earth.

The day is bound to narrow,
its conclusion
promises to be dark.
For now the world
is filling with radiance.
See how the morning glories
trumpet on the white fence.

Leave a Reply