In her emotionally vivid debut collection, LEAP THIRTY, Diane Lowell Wilder explores the subtle complexities of family and romantic relationships as she seamlessly glides through decades of memories. As she explains eloquently in the introduction, poems can be “windows, little illuminations, strangers’ houses lit at night.” Through the windows of LEAP THIRTY, Wilder takes the reader back to an imagined version of her childhood in the 1970s (the introduction also notes that the collection is “personal” but not entirely “autobiographical”) with authentic details. It is a time when “Luxury was a nickel-apiece paperback / at the fall church fundraiser” and “kids pedal / full bore in bare feet / pitched forward on / banana seats.” In technicolor imagery and with lyrical precision, Lowell considers how memory can take us back to a moment, bringing old feelings to the surface with the slightly skewed perception of the present: “Oh, I see how it will end— / this is the way of vision / cataracted, prismed—“ she writes in “Vertigo,” recalling a scene involving her parents from many years earlier.
The collection unfolds in a roughly linear timeline, with Wilder contemplating her childhood, her teenage years, and then adulthood, during which she marries and has children. She watches as her parents begin to grow old and considers her own aging process. In the title poem, which describes the feeling that time has suddenly moved forward at an accelerated rate, she writes, “Glorious leap of thirty years, sleek-toed / jeté and arch of feet and then the meet / and slam of landing here beside the jar / in which I keep my youth.” The jar is a metaphor, much like Wilder’s notion of the poems as windows. It is something to peer through and see what once was. The jar holds the memories she examines from years past, experiencing them again in the present and holding them before the reader in these shimmering lines.
In LEAP THIRTY, Diane Lowell Wilder plumbs the depths of memory to explore how relationships change over time, particularly our relationships to ourselves. It is a moving reflection on love and loss readers will find entrancing.
~Lisa Butts for IndieReader