In these poems, Helen Haskell Remien celebrates all that thrives at her family’s cottage near the Gulf of Maine: periwinkles, kingfishers, and the sweet scent of pine. She ventures out, to wild prairie roses in North Dakota; to huckleberries in Idaho; and on to the South of France, where she is photographed in her wedding dress in a field of sunflowers. One Easter, she is in Greece, the Aegean blue by day, silver by night, the goddess Diana everywhere. In summer, at home in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, she piles food from market onto her mother’s turquoise plate: heirloom tomatoes, poblanos, plums, arugula, and, beside them, chocolate raspberry muffins. In these settings, family dramas play out, some tough, most tender, about a grandmother, a mother, a father, two brothers, a deceased sister, a husband she calls “my guy,” two sons, a niece, a grandson, a granddaughter. Helen doesn’t hold back in these poems. With greedy exuberance and profound love, she swallows whole everything and everyone in her orbit. And we readers, with her all along, are changed.
-Beverly Matherne, author of Potions d’amour, thés, incantations / Love Potions, Teas, Incantations
When I read Helen Haskell Remien’s poems, I am glad to be in the world. She reminds us how full it is, this earth where we find ourselves, and each other, and occasional loneliness, and frequent joy. Her poems bring this earth to us, this world filled with barnacles, hermit crabs, sea urchins, “a leg flung over a leg,” Charles Dickens, Virginia Woolf, a hummingbird hawk-moth, a balsam forest, her niece and grandson, her mother’s blue eyes. Who wouldn’t want to live in this world? Who wouldn’t feel overwhelmed by its generosity? “Sometimes it feels as though we can’t hold this much of a gift on our own, but we must.” Through these exuberant poems, we can hold it, we do hold it, this world, this gift.
-Lynn Domina, author of Framed in Silence and Corporal Works
Helen Haskell Remien asks “What fills me with wonder?” and answers resoundingly in this collection where she celebrates warbler songs, light on balsams, tide pool adventures, and discovering Captain Underpants. She stirs her sea of memories, gives us messages from family ghosts, glimpses of fields of sunflowers and poppies, deer in the snow and love in a duck call. “Oh, Mother, I will pack it all in my bag, the laughter, the light, a song I have learned that is now my very own.” In Undone with Wonder, Helen Haskell Remien teaches us her song of joy and hope. We cannot help but sing along.
-Janeen Pergrin Rastall, president of U.P. Poet Laureate Foundation