Unseasonably Sensational: Salting the Boundaries by Dale Pendell

Review by Eric Weinblatt

Cover Illustration: "Beacons IV" by Honor Woodard

Cover Illustration: "Beacons IV" by Honor Woodard

           Poetry is nothing short of a skilled art form and recently Dale Pendell has proved his mastery of the art in his collection Salting the Boundaries. The collection takes readers through an entire year in the Sierra foothills of Northern California. While exposing the readers to the elements, Pendell is sure to keep any consumer of his wildly lustrous verse company throughout the year. Divided out into three sections, the collection is nothing short of awe-inspiring and transcends the power of the page by offering a truly unforgettable experience in every stanza.

            The initial section of the collection, Brushing places readers in late spring. The relaxing dew of the morning air, and refreshing crispness of a spring day in Northern California lies at the final line of each of these enchanting poems. The following section, Salting The Boundaries from which the title of the collection is given, transitions the readers through summer and autumn while gently reminding them that Dale Pendell is no novice when it comes to history, current events, and classical poetry. Using elements and references from all three, he creates a sensational tone of conflict and artful resolution as he manages to both delight and still shocks his audience with each subsequent stanza. The final section of the collection Winter Potions brings the reader into winter with each chilling verse. Each serves to remind readers of Pendell’s knowledge of Celtic and Yoruba traditions. These traditions serve as a foundation for the poetry contained not only in the final section, but also throughout the collection.  As the collection comes to a close, readers will find themselves warmed by the fire of Pendell’s verse. This comes across as masterfully cozy as Pendell reminds us, “In California and other ‘Mediterranean’ climates, winter is when it rains. Fires are in the stove. It’s a good time for writing, and books.”

            Overall, Dale Pendell is nothing short of a pleasure to read. Each of the poems contained within Salting the Boundaries stands strong on its own and works in conjunction with the previous and following pieces. Pendell offers a voice that is both soothing and shocking, harboring a rich connection to both nature and tradition. It is no wonder that Gary Snyder boasts, “I’m glad I cleared the desktop and spread out and read all of Salting The Boundaries this evening. These are all new poems to me and new n tone, style, and vocabulary. The breadth of knowledge and concern, mythopoetic, geologic, historic, et al is splendid.” The collection shares a voice akin to Snyder yet simultaneously unique. The experience of a year in the foothills is something utterly unforgettable and Dale Pendell drives the point home with Salting the Boundaries.

To find out more about Dale Pendell and purchase Salting the Boundaries you may visit Dale's website
Salting the Boundaries is also available from SPD Books and Amazon.com 

Thoughts on Literary Fame

ZACK ROGOW, Catamaran Poetry Editor


Fame. It’s as irrelevant to good writing as sunny weather. Or is it the gold ring we’re all reaching for?


I was moved to write about fame because I’ve been listening during my commute to a collection of poetry on CDs called The Spoken Arts Treasury. This compendium of the writings and voices of 100 leading poets in the United States was released only 45 years ago, but I was shocked by how many of the poets who were considered necessary writers in 1969 are unknown today. I don’t mean that I’ve only read a couple of their poems. I mean that I had never even heard the names of a good portion of the poets in that collection.



The Greek goddess Pheme, source of the word "fame"

Maybe even more surprising is the fact that a collection released in 1969 did not include many of the poets of the U.S.A. whom we now consider to be some of the leading voices of the mid-twentieth century, such as Gwendolyn Brooks, Allen Ginsberg (too radical for that time), June Jordan, Adrienne Rich (who had already published her first Selected Poems in 1967), Anne Sexton, or May Swenson. In just 45 years, we have dramatically changed our sense of who the important U.S. poets of that time were. Many writers included in The Spoken Arts Treasury do continue to find readers: Elizabeth Bishop, e.e. cummings, Langston Hughes, Robinson Jeffers, Sylvia Plath, William Carlos Williams, etc. But it seems almost arbitrary which poets were included in this anthology.


The word “fame” comes from the name of the Roman goddess Fama, which in turn comes from a Greek word that just means “talk.” That in turn, is related to Old Church Slavonic bajati, but you already knew that. Hey, Zack, what is your point? The point is that fame is just talk, it’s not hard evidence of truth or quality.


Just because a writer is known today, or unknown today, does not mean that her or his reputation will remain that way. In fact, it’s almost a guarantee that tastes and readers will change, and that writers whose work speaks to a particular time and/or readership will vary in popularity, or maybe find new readers in a different time or place. We should not be intimidated by a writer’s reputation and feel we have to like that person’s work. On the other hand, we should appreciate writers who are not well known, but whose work we genuinely enjoy. In other words, trust your taste and your reaction to a work of literature, not the writer’s reputation.


To read more posts by Zack Rogow, visit his blog, Advice for Writers.


Zack Rogow is a poet, playwright, editor, and translator.  He has written seven collections of poetry, and his most recent book, published in 2012, is My Mother and the Ceiling Dancers. He currently teaches at two graduate writing programs:  the low-residency MFA at the University of Alaska, Anchorage, and the MFA at California College of the Arts.  He has an MA in English from City College, City University of New York, and a BA in English from Yale University.