Reviews

Charlotte Renk's latest book, Solidago, is a metaphoric scratchboard that turns into an illuminated manuscript. Her illuminated concept of using weeds as a focusing device is inspired; we overlook and dismiss them, diminish their value. Charlotte, though, makes us look through the darkness of the background, makes us scratch for meaning, and assures again and again, there is something to be admired, always something that is green.

It's no accident there is a constant mention of being green. This book is Charlotte's work al its strongest, most multi-layered, and most defiant. Even as she questions, again and again, why some plants are overlooked, disregarded, and regarded as common, she states, again and again, in wonderful extended metaphors, that life is full of value and joy, regardless of how it is named, regardless of the titles we use.

Alan Lee BirkelbachPoet Laureate of Texas, 2005

I have long been a fan of the weed - that underdog; that beautiful, rugged life; often questioning how certain blooms could ever be viewed as a nuisance. There is a longing in Charlotte Renk's Solidago: An Altar to Weeds; a need unfulfilled; a pungent sadness in our great search of the soul; a universal desire to transcend the world's labels; to become the wildflowers that God already knows we are.

Karla K. MortonPoet Laureate of Texas, 2010

This Tenderest Petal Hears is a skillfully executed poetic testament not only to a life fully lived, but a life lived with razor-sharp reflection, sensitivity, love, yearning, the power of memory, and the transcend.ent capabilities of language carefully studied, appreciated, and utilized to its full potential. Simultaneously classical and contemporary, these poems are richly textured with allusions to mythology, history, philosophy, music, fairy tales, and psychology: composed by a poet well versed in both the great literature of the past and the present. The poet's diction, although accessible to the college-educated reader, is scintillant with daring word clusters and intriguing turns of phrase:" ... Quixote midget tilting at little windmills," " ... trumpeted yowls / dancing on chordal clouds," " ... misty-mint aura / washing pastel across the day," "Orioles flap hunger to jam-dolloped platters," "rising like purple pagodas, spirit-scenting / promised whispers of healing," and "when a lover traced the curve of my hip / as if it were the lip of God."

With an incantatory voice one would expect from a shaman, the poet of these poems leads the reader through a contemporary inferno of existential angst, betrayal, abuse, homophobia, the undying love and horrors of familial relationships, and promise unfulfilled, only to redeem that reader with the splendors and unfathomable mysteries of the natural world teeming at their fingertips.

Larry D. Thomas, Contest Judge2008 Texas Poet Laureate

This poet is having a thrilling, heart-stopping, pulse-racing affair with the English language, and we're all invited to join in. What lover would not want to be caressed and crooned over the way this author does with every poem, every word? Not only is this writer incredibly gifted with language, she is a highly-accomplished storyteller as well, with an amazing knack of pulling the reader into the story itself. The combination of these two things makes this collection one that every true aficionado of poetry will want on his or her shelf.

I don't think I've ever come across such a rich, magnificent poetic voice; your images are incomparable, your language fresh and exciting, your subject matter deep, poignant and sweet... l'm reeling from the genius-this manuscript cries out to be set loose on the world.

Susan Ranglack 2008 Judge, Edwin M. Eakin Memorial Book Publication Award

For many years, I have followed the poetry of Charlotte Renk with interest and deep respect. Her poems are intriguingly paradoxical: rich with mythological allusions yet "down-home" and accessible; musical and aesthetically appealing yet layered with psychological depth. In These Holy Hungers, Renk probes the complexities of the human heart with the clarity and insight of a shaman, and with consummate poetic skill, offers up the "nourishment" of highest art.

Larry D. Thomas2008 Texas Poet Laureate, Author of New and Selected Poems (TCU Press 2008)

Some poets are safe. Some poets write poems that area sweet and easy and don't keep us up at night. Charlotte Renk is not that type of poet. Charlotte writes poems that are dangerous, poems that are piercing, dynamic, full of sleeve-grabbing images and sounds, poems that are full of fury and passion and desire. Somehow her poems are raw and polished simultaneously. Charlotte's poems will keep you up at night-but only because they are so, so good.

Alan Lee BirkelbachTexas Poet Laureate

In This Great Turtle Heart, Charlotte Renk fuses scholarship and artistry, the scientist's precision, and the poets rapture, as she charts the arduous odyssey of a larger-than-life box turtle. Drawing on biology, myth, folklore, history and literature, Renk examines meticulously every facet of her subject's journey to capture both "the beauty and the burden of earth," its "dust-covered deserts" as well as the "Golden gasps of light," creating in the process a vision that enfolds and ultimately transforms the reader. In an epoch of division and rancor this work affirms the necessity of connections and compassion. These truly are poems for our time.

Carol Coffee-ReposaPoet Laureate of Texas 2018

We are swept up in the epic of Turtle-her first emergence her relationship with Sister, learning the perils of the environment. We are filled with compassion for her struggles, her lessons in a changing environment. We care about her eggs, the drought, fire and cold and her ultimate challenge when "time will come for her, and will her to that last/cool dark-burrowed home." Charlotte Renk has brought us into the world of Turtle with strong, lyrical narratives that sweep us along in a moving story of endurance that we all respond to in fundamental ways.

Susan Stevens ChambersJudge of the Catherine Case Lubbe Manuscript Prize. 2017 Moderator, Attorney at Law, Good Thunder. MN

Rich with allusion and breadth of subject matter, these poems not only plunge the reader immediately into the actual lives of turtles but also transport that reader into the complex emotions and yearnings of human beings. Few contemporary poets illuminate the nuances of human relationships with the clarity and insight of Charlotte Renk.

Larry D. ThomasMember Texas Institute of Letters Poet Laureate of Texas 2008