In “Status Pending,” the new collection from Adrian Blevins, director of Creative Writing at Colby College, nearly all the poems include the word “status” in their titles. Her speaker is fast-talking, a person immersed in the culture of her native Appalachia, but also apart from it – both criticizing and loving it. The only “non-status” poems are the first and last, representing departure and return to the childhood home. In the first, “Love Poem for Leonardo DaVinci,” the speaker is an “insurrectionist” who had to escape “that old river valley of church & cakewalks/ & doilies & football & the death of deer & date rape / & other good American things.” In the closing poem, “Fox Heart,” she turns back with love to her place of origin, “the Appalachian rainforest in my heart.”

While some of the “status” poems also refer to the speaker’s place of origin, others are purely critical of the larger American culture. “Social Status” becomes a character in one poem, the sister of “Nobody.” The title character of “Low Status” is blamed for her own poverty: “Was Low Status . . . Obese? . . . Was Low Status just ignorant?” “Has she never seen a Renoir? A windbreaker? a pear?” In “Status, Alas,” the speaker recognizes her need to buy things as a drug to assuage need and loneliness, what she calls her “shopping ache.” “Refund Status” calls out consumer culture for two principal sins: first, for encouraging addiction to stuff, “making // despondent bandits of us,” and second, for the disregard of environment and species:

You don’t seem to know it,

but there are foxes
crossing meadows

out there fast as disco lights.
There are loons on your lakes.

In “Privation Status” Blevins superimposes the “yellow aisled” Dollar General on what was there before — the hayfield and the “mislaid whippoorwills & mice / & voles. . . & butterflies/ & foxes & rabbits & June bugs.” She also pokes fun at herself for wanting “tampons / with cardboard applicators” when only the plastic ones are available. Of course she is concerned about plastic, a major component of “a huge vortex /of trash in the Pacific.” Yet, she describes the Great Pacific Garbage Patch with humor, addressing it as though it is a god in an epic poem:


O, great slimy
garbage patch of fork & knife
& water bottle & Chinese ukulele
& Bud ring & whatever
other rotted whatnot

Blevins uses the same kind of wry humor in poems about personal loss. In “Injury Status” she compares the feeling of “Being left by your husband after twenty-two years” to a “snake-handling megawatts church in Needmore, / Virginia like you’re the tree of yuck & he’s the wave /that makes the wind.” The reader feels the speaker’s pain while appreciating the humor of the word “Needmore” which is both an actual town and an apt descriptor of the sickness of consumer culture.

A divorce poem, “Bereavement Status,” is set “at that transfer station that’s really just a dump.” This poem is another mélange of humor and grief, cataloguing discarded objects as though they are the leavings of her failed marriage: “that old shirt & bowl & plate” and “containers from Wendy’s // & the slimy Glad bags & . . . cables & dial-up phones.” The surprise ending speculates about what held the couple together, rejecting a list of constraints — “not a clothesline or a wire”— while enacting the stumbling thought process and astonishing the reader by settling finally on a weapon: “something like a circuit / or a cord—something — a chilly towline — a thread — a sword —.”

Several poems address the loss of the speaker’s mother, a grief vitally connected to the grief for her home and for the environment. Her mother, “this wren at my window / or this wind” exists everywhere even inside the speaker. She

is anyway everywhere inside
my body — her cells & her proteins — her
hands & her feet — her lips — her knees —
her wings — her wings—

Just as she internalizes her lost mother, the speaker claims the gray fox of “Fox Heart” who is “hiding out in a little den in the shadow /of my hillbilly heart.” Because of her “gumption” and “curiosity” and her ability to adapt, the fox is an avatar of hope in the face of the “Apocalypse” created by rampant consumerism. The narrator, like the fox, has survived and bided her time until now, choosing to offer up this “story of our unforgiveable sins / & try & say what a fierce little forever-thing at least our sorrow is.”

Jeri Theriault is a poet who lives in South Portland. Her most recent book is “Self-Portrait as Homestead” (Deerbrook Editions). Recent awards include the 2023 Maine Arts Commission Literary Arts Fellowship. Find her at

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