Book Review: Shade of Blue Trees

Shade of Blue Trees
by Kelly Cressio-Moeller

Two Sylvias Press, 2021

Finalist for the Two Sylvias Press Wilder Prize

Cover art: “Gingko Porcelain Light Sculpture” by Andreea Braescu

Reviewed by Kathleen Kirk, EIL Poetry Editor

What a beautiful and melancholy book. The cover art matches the mood. The opening poem portends the sadness and darkness that will pervade these poems, not preventing beauty, irony, and the gorgeous use of language and form, even wordplay. I celebrate the line breaks in Kelly Cressio-Moeller’s “Portent with Moonset & Blackbirds.”

               These days I am uncertain, dead
                    reckoning my way through—

For a moment she is dead; in the next, “dead reckoning,” or finding her way by intuition or instinct, “surrendering to mystery / & surprise of mapless navigation.”  In the same poem,

     Sleep plowed a ragged field of un-
          even rows…

displaying the ragged field, the uneven rows. Shade of Blue Trees is full of elegy and sorrow, troubled family history, technical mastery, and aching worry, with moments of astonishing beauty.

The book contains ekphrastic poems, prose poems, persona poems, and poems that ripple or wind or writhe across the page, like water or snake or pain. There is myth, fairy tale, a recurring dream of a black bear. There is this short and perfect irony of a poem, hugging the right margin, as if to reverse everything:



When your mother dies
the first person
you want to call
is her.



There are many instances of internal rhyme, perhaps of keeping things inside, as in “Panels From a Blue Summer,” which begins, “I lack the luster that my lilacs can muster at any time of year.” There are individual lines that arrest me every time: “No one told the bees it was a silent retreat.” “I take odd comfort reading even pages.” So do I, I find, since that poem, “A Night of One’s Own,” falls on p. 58. It references Virginia Woolf in title and text, and I recall the book’s epigraph is from Woolf, as well, “Death is woven in with the violets…” Again, the portent is apt.

I first read this book in summer, and re-read it in fall. I remember that it mentions October. It teaches me how to grieve. I’ll be reading it again.


Kelly Cressio-Moeller at EIL
with “Conscious Sedation” from Shade of Blue Trees

Kelly Cressio-Moeller in Ready For Love at EIL


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