Loretta Diane Walker is treasure in the Texas poetry community. She is the author of many books, including a full-length collection, Day Begins When Darkness Is in Full Bloom (Blue Light Press, 2021) and the topic of this review, her most recent chapbook, From the Cow’s Eye & Other Poems, which won the 2021 William D. Barney Memorial Chapbook Prize from The Fort Worth Poetry Society. The poems in the collection show off Walker’s poetic range; the speaker weaves stunning Texas landscapes and offers deft observations about love, grief, music, dreams, superheroes, and much more.
Walker and I have West Texas in common—she’s from Odessa and I am from Midland. While From the Cow’s Eye & Other Poems features many lush landscapes, teeming with Texas wild flowers, I found her portrayal of the stark desert region particularly beautiful. I was transported by the opening lines of “On the Way to Albuquerque” when the speaker says “I head out shadowing dawn’s faded crimson face / and the stingy-cheeked clouds drifting in its sky. / Mesquite trees, barren beauty, and the stench / of cow dung and crude crowd the stretch / between Odessa and Roswell.” I appreciate Walker’s musical use of sound in these lines, and her ability to name such specific West Texas experiences: “cow dung and crude.” Walker perfectly captures another familiar memory for me in the poem “West Texas Snow.” The speaker relays the rare occurrence of snowfall, then delivers an image that has stuck with me since the moment I first read it: “Now this desert city is moon-colored.” If you have ever seen the snow-covered West Texas desert, you know that it absolutely looks like the surface of the moon—and it is every bit as bizarre and ethereal as that sounds.
In addition to my appreciation for Walker’s landscapes, I admire her ability to turn her poetic eye toward a range of other topics. Walker has a gift for personification, as evidenced in “After Water Was Separated from Water,” in which Walker turns the poem itself into a character. The speaker regales the curious poem with a telling of the Genesis myth, and at some point, the poem begins to drown in the speaker’s cup of tea. This poem exemplifies the balance of humor, whimsy, and darkness that makes these poems so compelling. The collection includes a handful of poems about superheroes, like Batman, Aquaman, and my favorite of these offerings, Wonder Woman. In “Princess Diana of Themyscira, Aka Wonder Woman,” the speaker is at once celebratory, jealous, and critical of the superhero, as in these powerful lines: “I do not buy her T-shirt. / The power of her shield too flimsy / to resuscitate the past of a bruised little girl / who wears a vacancy sign each day / where innocence used to live.” While the subjects of these poems vary widely, Walker’s voice is consistently sharp and surprising throughout the collection.
I found so much to enjoy in From the Cow’s Eye & Other Poems, and my conversation with Walker for the September podcast episode of Inner Moonlight was equally delightful. Listen to the episode to hear some of the poems, hear the backstory for the project, and more about Walker’s incredible work.
Loretta Diane Walker was the guest for The Inner Moonlight Podcast episode, you can listen to the conversation here
You can find this book here
Logen Cure is the author of three poetry chapbooks: "Still," "Letters to Petrarch," and "In Keeping." She's an editor for Voicemail Poems. She serves as an English faculty member at Tarrant County College and earned her MFA in Creative Writing from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. She curates "Inner Moonlight," a monthly poetry series at The Wild Detectives. She lives in Dallas with her wife and daughter.