The poems in Dorothy Field’s Muskwa-Kechika Dayenu are physically about a journey in the Muskwa-Kechika mountains, and emotionally about grief. Pages of vivid poetry are stacked with imagery of prairie flora and fauna. “Dayenu” (pronounced Die-A-New) is Hebrew for ‘it would have been enough,’ a Passover song of gratitude.
The first poem, “Transcribing Loon,” continues in a numbered sequence throughout the book, wherein the narrator recognizes sorrow and grief in the ‘sobbing’ of the loon. There are inteteresting colour combinations in “Before the Burn,” from an excited exploration of green to the “ravishing / red heat, blaze,” until the trees are black and the soil “charred”, suggesting destruction. The poem, however, comes full circle, describing the green of new life.
“Into the Alpine” takes us on a mountain journey, suggesting that grief is “a glacial run-off”. “Past the end of trees,” into the alpine, grief is offered as a gift for the sky. The poem also suggests rebirth at the end with “I stretched my hand for willow fluff on taut bone stalks, / tough skeletons already supporting next year’s bloom”.
Field uses the setting of “the largest wilderness area in the Rocky Mountains”, suggesting an immense amount of grief with which the narrator must come to terms. In this book, the narrator takes us on a journey, hoping to shed the weight of grief in a mountainous area, while ‘getting back to nature,’ paying attention to animals, and hiking away sadness. Will we return from the mountains reborn and ready for another year of life’s challenges? Dorothy Field’s book of poems Muskwa-Kechika Dayenu can be read as a song, or a book of songs of gratitude for the gift of the area, of the journey itself, and for what they provide.
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