RAIN VIOLENT, Ann Spiers (poet), Bolinas Frank (artist & calligrapher). Empty Bowl, 14172 Madrona Drive, Anacortes WA 98223, 2021, 78 pages, $16, paper,

“In Rain Violent, Ann Spiers unfurls the ravages of climate change,” so Deborah Bacharach begins her Compulsive Reader review of this arresting book. Along the way, Spiers unfurls her own life: a child’s knees, dead bees, Dakota, chickens, China.

In his Raven Chronicle review / interview / potpourri of and about this book, Jim Bodeen describes the 61 short poems in Rain Violent as “compulsive” and interpretive of not only weather but of our lives. “We’re in this weather together, reader.” He talks with both Spiers and Bolinas Frank, whose hand-painted weather symbols illustrate and accentuate each title (please skip over there and take a look at all he has to say).

Do take note of the cover designed by Tonya Namura.

My own weather today (Rain Continuous: three black dots arranged in a loose triangle):

Rain Continuous

I wear rain gear always.
Some of us go naked, cycling
through the market. Everyone wears
shower caps, crinkling over coiled hair.

—Ann Spiers

The poems are 4-lines each, not much room to play in, you would think—though every line bears Spiers’ signature sound-play, “Electronic hearts skitter. / Data, like confused fighter jets, scramble” (“Wind Out of the North”); “Snake skins, shunting in the wind like riffs / from a broken guitar” (“Thunder Heard”).

The prose introducing and following the poems also drew me in. I love Spier’s biographical note, a Vashon Island, Washington, poet I have reviewed before, but should know better. And we get this from the bio note on artist and calligrapher Bolinas Frank, suggesting the depth and range of the symbols, not to mention the themes packed into this slim book:

Bolinas sees the painting surface as a skin, and his creation emerges on the intelligent edge where art and life interface. Through his painting’s stacked messages, he asks what is underneath things, what is on the hidden side, what secrets lie underneath, and what information asserts itself….His work speaks about migration, domesticity, atrophy, exposing underlying flaws and defects that are carried, delivered, and exposed. (p. 77)

Rain Violent is a fast read, only 244 lines of poetry, after all. But the format and the content work together to slow you down. I found myself pondering each page. Despite the one-poem per page, and the artful titles and international weather symbols as rendered (beautifully, starkly) by Frank, there’s also a sense of the book as one long poem. When I finished I went back and read it again.

I often feel an urge to leave you with something gorgeous. Instead, this:

Clouds Dissolving

Faucets dry. Streams silent. Pools
fill with brush. I spit on my finger tips
to wash black oil from my child’s knees.
From the air drop dead birds.

—Ann Spiers

You can read more about both Spiers and Frank by following these links to their websites:

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