Poetry. Native American Studies. Denise Low’s MÉLANGE BLOCK maps a vivid landscape of Native American and settler lives. High Plains country, volcanic fields, wine country, and ghost towns are among the sites where Low casts spells of her beautifully felt language. Natural processes, like crystallization and aggregation, appear as topics and then reflect in the language itself, which becomes its own geography. Through her lens, the American continent patterns a new poetics in this innovative work. Very conscious of her identities as a person of Native and European heritages, she navigates through past and future until they join in one continuous history. Rain Taxi‘s reviewer said of her work, it is “surgical with the familiar and charming with the ancient.” Midwest Review of Books notes her “talent for tilling the surface and digging deep beneath topsoil to unearth legacies.”
Tyler Sheldon writes, “Nearly every poem in this collection emphasizes the striking of that balance between calm observation and insistent, active control. Additionally, it meets this tall order itself through Low’s canny, judicious wordplay.” and “Melange Block cuts straight to the crux of its own purpose as a catalyst for the reader’s growth. Look around you, Low cautions; take hold of your world, lest it “spins out of reach” “Recursive”). . . . Precision is one secret of Denise Low’s new poetry volume. Melange Block is a wise, carefully crafted collection that holds hidden knowledge for all readers. Slip between its covers, and sharpen your mind.” ~ Tyler Sheldon in Coal City Review (2015) http://www.coalcityreview.com/about/index.html
“Revealing a highly observant eye and sensitive ear, this mélange (mixture of styles, shapes, colors, or rock matrix) deals honestly with a landscape of subjects—from growing old to a family freezing one bitter winter to Degas ‘rasping / charcoal against grained paper.’ Their clarity and compression encompass us all.”—Mary Harwell Sayler
Her new collection, Mélange Block (Red Mountain Press, 2014) goes deep into the landscape, finding poetry in volcanoes, crystals, limestone, canyons and creeks. She plunders the rich vocabulary of the natural world to create elemental and timeless wordscapes. This is powerful work, yet the highlights of Mélange Block, for me, are her poems about people. “Another Custer Story: Cemetery” and “Walking with my Delaware Grandfather” are superb works that evoke Faulkner’s line, “The past is never dead. It’s not even past.” The latter poem closes thus: Air draws through these lungs made from his. / His blood still pulses through this hand.'” J.J. Awaworo Wilson, Western Univ. of N.Mex.
“Denise Low’s poems have the effect of intensifying everything: nature, history, even the present moment. Her language has had its soft fascia removed from around the muscular nouns, verbs and vivid images. ‘Particles vibrate,’ she says and shows, ‘inside limestone ledges.’ These are tough poems, in which every single word has an edge. That’s the message, here, whether the subject is ancestry or ‘fog over asphalt.’ Take the eye of the backyard fox. Take the silicate grasses. Line by line, Denise Low elevates and thereby honors the details of our lives and our land. She has created poetry anew, right in our midst; as she, herself, would vividly say, ‘Weathered outbuildings shelter crazy prophets.'”—Robert Stewart
“‘Aim for the eye,’ Denise Low writes and in her poetry, she constantly threads the most precise images through the the sturdy music of each poem’s world. Low speaks with intelligence, art, and originality. Altogether, the poems in this collection delve into the nuances of various elements of a life to show us an expanded understanding of the layers of reality. ‘May all our bones rest in peace,’ Low writes at the end of ‘Flint Hill Lullabies,’ showing us how history travels in our bones and the bones of wherever we live.”—Caryn Mirriam- Goldberg