Peter Christensen,
Winter Range
(Thistledown, 2001)

together we will turn this pasture
into a whole book of poems each
verse fenced by barbed wire
tight and strong so that
there is no escape

Peter Christensen's "Fencing Corollary" encapsulates his poetry collection Winter Range. His verses are succinct and controlled, capturing vivid moments of mortality and morality.

In "Terry," Christensen recognizes the "practical side to dying" that his friend, the saddlemaker, would understand. When "Cutting Trail," the poet listens to "an avalanche of shearing wind/stampede down the mountain/ancient spruce whip like thin grass" and understands the power of the trees to conquer man -- and later uses his saw to clear away the trees. A British Columbia writer and park ranger, Christensen focuses his pen toward appreciation of the natural beauty of the land and the challenges of integrating humans into the landscape.

One of my favorite images from this ample volume is "Ox's Clothesline," which depicts a masterpiece of ingenuity and positive thinking created by stringing a massive clothesline over a hundred feet above the valley. It's a picturesque and meaningful vignette.

In the section titled "The Moral Animal," Christensen explores diverse topics such as the fringe benefits of exercise and a slow day at a strip club. He notices camera angles. He empathizes with mutilated orchards: "I imagine my life like these trees/first wild and free/then grafted to the stock/each summer." His observations and emotions are subtle, allowing the reader to yearn or squirm under the influence of his words.

The final portion of Winter Range speaks of and for rivers. While he states "the river does not care/if we sewer it,/smelter slag its gravel beds,/dump salt, garbage, pulp effluent, 24D or rain...," his message flows like the river that he obviously loves.

Peter Christensen's verses are deceptively simple in appearance but complexly crafted. From these poetic fences, there is no escape. They channel the reader's energy and prick at emotions. Winter Range is a welcome respite from the mundane world.

- Rambles
written by Julie Bowerman
published 10 April 2004

Buy it from