These Rivers

Shawn Pittard

“There are rivers we live by” writes Shawn Pittard in the title poem of his new collection. He means, both literally and figuratively, our rivers—the American and the Sacramento—and his poems are anchored in them. A poet well-grounded in a sense of place, Pittard is precise in his language and particular in his description, as in “Odysseus,” where dying salmon evoke the Greek hero. He does for our rivers, in a less rigidly formal way, what Robert Frost did for New Hampshire’s White Mountains. But he is not so lost in the natural world that he forgets humanity, as in “Today is a Poem (May 21, 2003)”: “This morning, Homeland Security / raised the terror alert to Level Orange: / the same color as a cliff swallow’s rump. / I ask myself: Who are the meek / that shall inherit this earth?”