Leaves of Absence:
An Illustrated Guide to Common Garden Affection

by Laura Madeline Wiseman

Red Dashboard LLC Publishing, 2016. ISBN 978-1-518-83656-5.
Reviewed by Jazz Jaeschke
Posted on 01/21/2016

Poetry; Nonfiction: Nature/Place/Environment

This slim volume delights with robust satisfaction of visual and poetic appetites. In spite of a subtitle suggesting a broader garden, the plants here are trees. Some are wild, some perhaps in gardens. Affection for trees is evident, although the poetry extends into very human themes. You may well come away from this book with a deeper appreciation of trees and their relevance to human lives.

The pages contain a mix of botanical descriptions, poetry from Laura Madeline Wiseman, and colorful art from Sally Deskins blending abstraction with crisp sketching. The poems also paint compelling mental images. "On Exes, Old Ladies, and Wild Apples" offers this lovely word portrait:

I'm good,
wild, limbs swinging in the breeze, holding
the bright and open sky with my hands

My recommendation? Take this book to a tree, sit, read and contemplate connectivity with trees. As pointed out within, we humans "benefit psychologically when trees are present." Poetry and art amplify the effects.

Laura Madeline Wiseman has published over twenty books and chapbooks and is the editor of Women Write Resistance: Poets Resist Gender Violence. Wiseman holds a doctorate from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln where she currently teaches poetry. She has received multiple awards, including: Academy of American Poets Award; Mari Sandoz/Prairie Schooner Award; Wurlitzer Foundation Fellowship. This is her second collaborative work with artist Sally Deskins. Visit her website.

Sally Deskins holds a Bachelor's in Art from University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Her art has been exhibited nationwide, including the worldwide Gallery Tally exhibitions, and published in Rogue Agent, Meat for Tea, and Painters & Poets. Deskins is founding editor of Les Femmes Folles, an organization promoting women in art. Her first illustrated book, Intimates & Fools, with poetry by Laura Madeline Wiseman, received a Nebraska Book Honor Award for illustration and cover art in 2015. Visit her website.

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