ReaderViews reviews Chlorophyll by Raymond Luczak

Reviewed by Dawn Colclasure for Reader Views (12/2022)

A poetry book with a title like Chlorophyll can give one pause. What is so special about chlorophyll to write a whole book of poems about it? For Raymond Luczak, who grew up in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, plenty can be said about it – as it is part of the natural landscape he explored in his many years there.

I was excited when I had the opportunity to review this book. I have worked with Mr. Luczak in the past as a journalist and he was actually the first person I met before I started writing for the newspaper, SIGNews. We fell in and out of touch since then, but I came across his many other creative efforts on the Internet since. I have read his poems and often cited him as a fellow Deaf poet in my own poetic writing endeavors. Having been familiar with his work, I was thrilled to read his latest poetry collection. The book does not disappoint; the poems are beautifully written and reading them was somewhat comforting. They are so well written and his word choices leave a lasting impact on this reader.

Reading these poems is like being transported to another time and another place. The author brings the past to life so vividly, with phrases such as “Jolted alive, I felt a million arms of strangers/grabbing me as we surged north as one. … We marched right through the Agate Falls./We burbled hopes of a Promised Sea.” (Pg. 5) and “We stayed neutral in their fatal war/between Huascar and Atahualpa, … brothers fighting to control Cuzco/Then the pasty-faced Francisco Pizarro … showed up and conquered everything/else until these brothers fell.” (Pg. 46) And with a beloved apple tree in his backyard from long ago: “Every May her wafting blossoms lifted me,/As if my feet were given tiny wings, … high enough to enable me to inhale/the sweetness around which bees, … strangely fat and dropping out of nowhere,/demanded a cut in the line of my vision.” (Pg. 31)

I also liked how he describes certain items in nature. For a tulip: “On an incline overrun with dandelions,/she stands tall, its piercing red petals/up-turned to reveal mascara-laced eyes” (Pg 44) and for a rose: ”I wove my heart into a hairdo,/layered and frosted shimmeringly red. … My leaves are fists wound up. Too much waiting./The thorns on my anorexic stem  deaden.” (Pg. 45).

As good of a writer as Luczak is in constructing poems that bring history to life or share discoveries made, he excels at capturing the uniqueness, beauty and sentience of nature. I do enjoy reading nature poetry, and his nature poems in this book do not disappoint. However, he takes his nature poems one step further, in that he puts himself into products of nature: A river, a tree, a rose and a tulip. Sometimes I forget as I read such poems that they are written by a person; personalities, attitudes and emotions are so strongly conveyed in these poems that it’s almost like these very items of nature spoke to the author and he just wrote what it all down.

But it’s not just putting himself into objects of nature that happen in this book. One object of nature, an old oak tree, reminds him of an old friend who passed away this year. In fact, the poem, “On the Corner of Oak and Spruce” is in memory of that friend. And, it would seem, so is the tree itself. The tree somehow reminds him of his friend, with lines like “You are an oak tree” and “I await the fall of your acorns.” (Pg. 81) It’s a sweet, reminiscent, and beautiful poem capturing a time long ago of childhood days, when they must have known each other on that corner.

He also writes about stones of note — agates and basalt — and this combined with the poems about the rivers and the trees helps us readers who have never been to his neck of the woods get some kind of picture of what it looks like, or once looked like. Some trees came down, some buildings are no longer there and some rivers are no longer the same as he once knew them, but what he remembers of them he brings to life in the poems so that we can see them as they once were.

It wasn’t just the poems themselves that I liked to read, or the images they created. There were some lines that I just really liked a lot. Lines such as “the lighthouse blinking its tired pulse” and “Spring is a girl who’s cried all night” and “Summer is a mop-haired toothy grinned boy” and “The sun and the rain make the best sisters.”

I really enjoyed reading this collection of poems. I feel that anyone who enjoys reading regional or nature poetry would enjoy reading this book as well. Fans of Luczak’s work are in for a treat, as Chlorophyll takes them on a reading experience of history, mythology, beauty, and adventure. The poems seem to whisk us away to the very rivers he writes about above, the caves and the forests, making it easy to get lost in this work as we are introduced to a Michigan which only he knows, and writes extremely well about. Whether you are familiar with Luczak’s poetry or a new reader of his work, Chlorophyll will leave you with a reading experience of magic and wonder through poems expertly written in a way of bringing a whole other world to life.

Chlorophyll: Poems About Michigan’s Upper Peninsula
Raymond Luczak
Modern History Press (2022)
ISBN: 978-1615996421
Reviewed by Dawn Colclasure for Reader Views (12/2022)
5*Beautiful poetry of nature and home



‎ 978-1-61599-642-1
Poems about Michigan's Upper Peninsula
In stock
Product Details
UPC: ‎ 978-1-61599-642-1
Brand: Modern History Press
Binding: Paperback
Audiobook: Audible, iTunes
Edition: 1st
Author: Raymond Luczak
Pages: 98
Publication Date: 09/01/2022
Join me on a journey to the unspoiled forests of Upper Michigan
A long time ago young men wishing to be tall
scaled the mast of my octopus arms
and scanned the horizon of Lake Superior
for a glimmer of Canada. Usually we were cut down ...
For many of those who've lived there, the Upper Peninsula of Michigan can seem like a magical place because nature there feels so potent and, at times, full of mystery. After having grown up there, Raymond Luczak can certainly attest to its mythical powers. In Chlorophyll, he reimagines Lake Superior and its environs as well as his houseplants as a variety of imaginary and historical characters.

Ghosts dress in only gray and white.
This is how they camouflage their volcanic selves.
Lake Superior is bottled with them.
You can't see them but they move like fish ...

"In Raymond Luczak's Chlorophyll, the devastating natural beauty of Michigan's Upper Peninsula is imbued with passions its reticent human inhabitants are loathe to express. Trees, lakes, and stones air their infatuations, their grudges, their mythologies and griefs. Through this forest of the otherwise unsaid, we catch glimpses of a speaker who knows there is no line to blur between 'person' and 'nature.'" --Emily Van Kley, author of Arrhythmia and The Rust and the Cold

Spring is a girl who's cried all night
only to find that morning easily forgives
the coldness of him having left her
stranded among the thicket of evergreens ...

"Giving voice to the natural world, Raymond Luczak allows the rocks, trees, lakes, insects, and flowers that are part of flora and fauna of the region to speak for themselves, and they remind us that we are human, living in a more than human world." --William Reichard, author of Our Delicate Barricades Downed and The Night Horse: New and Selected Poems

"Evocative yet personal communing with nature. One of my sons summed up poetry as saying a lot with a few words. This collection does that. There is a piece of prose smuggled in and the poems vary in length considerably. There are some poems with traditional rhyme (and assonance) and the main themes are nature, anthropomorphised and used as metaphor. Dependability of nature and changing seasons also feature. The author reveals much of his story and relationships as well as the geography he inhabits and appreciates. I would advise reading this in small sips, as I did. That way you'll be able to savor the poems and their messages. I have deducted a star as many have already been published previously - and for the inclusion of prose (albeit informative) amongst the poems." --Daryl P. Goodwin, M.D.

"Being born a Michigan girl and now living in Texas; I miss the seasons, the tall beautiful trees, the clear rushing water of the rivers, the many lakes, and of course the Great Lakes surrounding Michigan. This collection of poems paints the visuals into a picturesque moving picture of the landscape, Lake Superior, insects, trees, animals, flowers, grass, life and death, etc. You don't have to be a Michigander or an outdoorsman to appreciate nature's beauty coming to life in the spring, the lazy dog days of summer, the colorful and chillier days of autumn, and the frigid cold and stark white of winter. This collection provides escapism to ordinary day!" --Laura Spinnett

"Luczak has a fantastic command of language and human emotion. Get a box of Kleenex, a bottle of wine, and some uninterrupted reading time. I have already reread it, told people about the book, and am expecting this book will win many awards. Very impressive." --Carolyn Wilhelm, Midwest Book Review

Raymond Luczak grew up in the Upper Peninsula. He is the author and editor of numerous titles such as Compassion, Michigan: The Ironwood Stories. His book once upon a twin: poems was chosen as a U.P. Notable Book for 2021. He resides in Minneapolis, Minnesota
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