Like the wading birds of the title, the poems in this collection find their sustenance in the ground, tilling the earthly measure, even as they lift questions toward the heavens. Summoning the pastoral and the oracular by turns, the poems of Sanderlings
achieve a preternatural rapture, both sensual and learned.
‘. . . the voice that within dirt / took root became the many-tendriled sound’ is the Roethke-like ‘germinal’ pulse that characterizes Geri Doran’s distinctive second collection, Sanderlings. The marriage of this elemental voice with an elegant formal intelligence and a quiet, insistent, and probing imagination makes these poems truly remarkable additions to contemporary American poetry.
What I love about Sanderlings, besides the ripening imagery, is the variety of expression. The poems don’t fix on a single way to regard our sense of living. There’s a powerful willingness to look into the natural diversity of thought and feeling, and Geri Doran’s language is willowy and very fine.
2012 Oregon Book Award Finalist
Barer than January maples, bare abandoned hives:
the bees silenced in their harvest rustle.
Like as to like, the soul
quiets, if soul it is, this bee box
in the chest. What outward presence
calls to inward space, drop your wings?
And what unclaimed interior complies?
Oh the flatland reveals its field of golden
stubble, and oh the sheared stalks
do not cry out. No, the chaff flutters
in the midland wind and the wings of the dead bees
quiver in the box.
The music in her lines is tight as a stone wall with nothing but gravity for mortar—'The hackberry blackens in the March wind. / The bur oak in the backyard waits'—and accretes so that even moments of relative calm feel ardent and poised at the edge of 'sweet bewilderment.' 'Easy, now. Rains are falling,' Doran writes, and one feels the fullness of her poems’ onrushing images heart-breakingly restrained in the pause.
—Zach Savich, Kenyon Review Online
Geri Doran’s second collection employs lyrical music in free verse filled with sound, as the inquisitive poet examines her world. The collection opens with the ocean, crafting images of sanderlings, a species of sandpiper, “chased up the beach by the waves / then skittering right back down into the wet.” Musical terminol- ogy reinforces these poems, such as in “The Dark Octaves,” in which “Germinal, the voice that within dirt / took root became the many-tendriled sound.” While joy remains in uplifting language, the shadow of American imperialism surfaces. In “The Snowlit Sky,” through a “black entanglement of the winter trees,” there are “fiefdoms bent / on redemption but first and more cloyingly / on praise.” The speaker makes the poignant observation that we continue on, “lost to our geog- raphy, to reason, picking our way, / like a mad vainglorious king, and slipping wildly.” Doran dwells on Iraq “In the Valley of Its Saying,” claiming that “War and death have taken the mouth for their own. / For there the beat of the heart cracks quietly now, a rasp // like the cockroach’s shell under boots.” She also re- flects on the lost city Atlantis in “Aubade,” theorizing that “mourning not for the thing, or the lack — / mourning the distance we must travel to get it.” Doran’s exploration of what remains lost frames the collection’s startling imagery depict- ing the world and its inhabitants.
—Alyse Bensel, The Los Angeles Review
For a book titled Sanderlings, few birds flutter through Geri Doran's second collection of poems. More centrally, this book is focused on scavenging, as those small wading birds are wont to do, and Doran's interest in stringing fragment-like sections together, shrapnel from a larger idea, places the reader in that role of scavenger. These poems are far from being "easy" or "accessible," as Doran asks her readers to meet her halfway and work through these poems piecemeal. And if one is willing to put in the effort, these poems—with their restraint and subtle grace—can mesmerize.
—Jacques J. Rancourt, Devil's Lake