Janet Grace Riehl
Reviewed by Ernest Dempsey
Death sometimes brings about a radical swing in the way the survivors look at life. Janet Grace Riehl, an award-winning author, has written a poetry book Sightlines (iUniverse Inc., Lincoln, 2006) that expresses her feelings about the beauties and frailties of daily life after the death of her beloved sister Julia in a road mishap.
Linking the abstract pieces of life’s jigsaw together, Janet Grace Riehl connects the presence and absence of loved ones, the things they do and the way they do it, the places they used to live, and the vitality of belongingness that makes life going. The book is written in a dominantly nostalgic poetical mode that sometimes points to the countryside and simple old ways of peaceful life.
Using free verse for expressing her thoughts and feelings, Riehl has touched on core human emotions like companionate love, parental love and care, grief and its remedy, and the feeling of continuity of life via bloodline. The first few pieces of verse in the book are by Riehl’s father, Erwin A Thompson whose lines are emotionally moving and literarily inspiring. Some of the entries have spiritual implications especially Pope In My Bedroom and there are messages about love of nature e.g. Loving Liberty and Up Under The Pine Rows. The author has also shared photos of her family to make the reader’s ‘sightlines’ clear for looking at the poetic scene at hand.
Sightlines will appeal to any lover of nicely-written free verse that is expressive of universal existential codes: love, peace, grief, belongingness, fear, and all that makes ‘life’ beautiful.