Home is important to all of us. Once we spend time breathing life into it — inhaling and exhaling acceptance of everything a place is — only then does a house become a home. A wonderful new collection of poems by Andrea Suarez Hill, “The Making of Budworm Farm,” is a story of how a place became a home for the author and her husband in Jonesboro.
After growing up in New England and having lived in New York City until 1987, Hill moved to Maine, where her love of horses gave her a foothold to start another life. She and her husband found an 11-acre tract of land near the Chandler River and decided to make that place their home. They took the name of the home, Budworm, from the saltwater farm and its land, which was logged long ago and then blighted by an infestation of spruce budworm.
The 43 pieces in the collection brim with emotion and move in a collective breath, a cadence that takes the reader forward like a slow trot of a horse or the footsteps of a person walking gingerly through a field of tangled weeds and flowers amidst all types of animals. The reader moves through this place — listening, seeing and feeling all the while nature speaks and welcomes you home.
Hill’s writing spans 34 years and reflects a maturity of herself as a writer and the place where she dwells. Fragments of time and subjects are laid bare for the reader to pick up, hold and appreciate. The book is sliced into sections, each represents a piece of the journey: Seeds, Seasons, Equus, Wildlife and Mentors all hold hands and in their own way tell a story.
Hill is not new to poetry circles, having her work extensively published in “The Aurorean,” “3 Nations Anthology,” “The Binnacle,” “From A Far Corner: An Anthology of Poetry from the Easternmost Reaches of Maine” and “Goose River Anthology.”
In the opening poem, “Seed,” Hill gets your attention immediately as she reveals her approach to life. It is all about focus, images — past and present — which together collect into a pool of years. It’s a beginning and an end. It is a possibility. “A picture unfolds, all years superimposed, single but whole, an embryo.”
“Sea Change” is a pure Down East trip amidst the past. In a skiff smelling of fish and gulls, Hill takes you to an island place to share in the mystery of an old lighthouse and the stories it could tell if it ever had the chance. It, too, is about time and old ways. “A spiral rust-stained staircase leads to Stone Age tech that once flashed its own code in crystal and sounded a horn sailors sought and obeyed. We high-five the view.”
And in “Gone,” Hill speaks of age; the years devoted to making any place a home. The relics of those days speak in tones of a slow and beautiful demise we all know is happening right now. “A barn sags on a cracked sill like an elder creaky and crooked on his cane.”
“Lessons,” the last piece of the collection, is a lesson on being in the moment, taking the time to simply be. It, too, is a life lesson we all should learn and live by: to quiet the chaos within and without. “Every ride is a refuge, within is without. When you listen, questions are answered.”
This is a work to savor, to contemplate and reread because, as you do so, nuance and surprise awaits. The cumulative impact of this work musters a unique, intrinsic grip on the reader — the essence of what poetry is all about.
That essence is to find the writer within the pages, within the words that move along the page, to find all that they see and hear. And when it happens you will find yourself holding their hand and walking with them to that quiet spot, to that place they call home.
“The Making of Budworm Farm”
Poems by Andrea Suarez Hill
Goose River Press, 2020, softcover, $14.95
RJ Heller, BDN Down East contributor
RJ Heller is a journalist, essayist, photographer, author, an avid reader and an award-winning book critic who enjoys sailing, hiking and other outdoor pursuits. He lives in Starboard Cove.