Strange Arts & Visual Delights
I first encountered McLean’s poetry in a poetry critique group. Over time I noticed her frequent use of personification. Every Single Thing (Wayfarer Books, 2021) has a number of interesting examples.
has gathered up its hems
and retreated to its center.
Less obviously, in the first stanza of “Snow Coming,” McLean writes: “The wind tests the tin roof, / tries the tack room door.”
At the end of “Black Mingo Creek,” the poet is floating down the creek in a boat. She sees a
of cotton mouths
coiled on the mucky shore.
I nod my respect
towards the shore,
McLean’s personifications arise naturally from her experience of nature, rather than as an arbitrary imposition of technique on experience. They grant an equality of being between the poet and the personified and allow the poet and her reader to “see into the life of things,” as Wordsworth describes it in “Tintern Abbey.” In “Abscission,” the technique helps us experience the falling leaves of autumn in a novel way. I urge you to read the poem for yourself.
As a young poet, I dismissed personification as fusty and lazy, but in McLean’s hands it gracefully bears a heavy load of meaning, a genuine connection to the natural world.