“The Manamooskegin is a height that, in many places, is too subtle to detect unless you happen to be one of the type who watches running water.” That single sentence from Warren Winders’ “Wild River” places you squarely on the edges of a small river, hearing a slight trickle of water rolling around downed beech limbs then over life giving gravel, where trout struggle to survive. Similarly, we have our own struggles so writers like Warren put our shared states on paper, as he has done in his book of poetry and prose. It is a powerful collection of memories, wishes and hopes.
“Wild River,” Poetry and Prose About People and Waters
A fisherman and lover of moving waters, Warren paints for us; room to room, porch to field, river rock to open sea. Trout swim through its pages as he carries us to The Cape, with her dismantled salter brook trout populations, over Mount Bald Cap, because there is always joy in mountain and along the Neponset River where his father jumped across on the tops of icebergs. It’s his remembrances, some sewn tightly with grief, loss, pain and past joys which gripped me because he reminds us this is life; these are our struggles and ultimately we are just human after all, infallible and fragile. Reading his observations of such primal senses helps us to continue, with hope. In “IZZY”, he wrote,
“She amazed us
With her good natured defiance of gravitational pull
And we believed
That Death couldn’t pull her down
That small piece of an ode to a lost cat translates easily to a salter brook trout or any animal really, peacefully existing in a safe, natural world, seemingly never to fall to larger forces. But we know that not to be true now. Trout and rivers have been suffering and Death has pulled them down but some, like Warren, are working to change that.
Filled with light and shadows, Warren Winders’ “Wild River” requires patience. It took me weeks to find its final page then its first page again just a few nights later. Much of our lives are on pause right now and Warren’s words, with their timing and ease, provided me some welcome pause of a finer kind.
The Santuit, Bread and Cheese, Red Brook, Neponset Warren introduces us equally to rivers and people. Some of both are not so much characters per se but ordinary but valuable and some of both we may have taken for granted. As frustrated shad migrated through a dam restricted Luddams Ford and gorgeous salters vanished from the Santuit, Warren tells stories of daily life adventures, which seems so carefree in retrospect. His personal account of life’s costs mirrors many small streams leading to the sea which now flow idly without benefit of salmon, shad or salter brook trout. People and fish are equally grieved. “…reducing the Santuit to just another name added to the long, bitter list of extirpated salter streams,” Warren wrote, adding just another name to different list of losses in his life.
In “For The Woman Who Saw The Beauty In Wave Worn Rocks”, ashes are returned to the sea.
“A wave broke and rolled up the sandy slope
And retreating carried her home
To the center of her heart.”
My Lord. You will feel those small smooth stones roll over your bare toes, luring you just a bit farther down the beach as Warren helps us feel the power of ashes washing her away for one, last, time. A poet’s job is to ask or see or ask what we might see if someone asked us to look more closely. Indeed, anguish weeps from his spartan words which level a playing field of grief we all have now or will eventually. “Bonnie is buried with the old orange vest And the tail feathers Of a pheasant and a grouse.” But page by page, Warren reminds us there is hope.
“Wild River” takes us downstream
At last, Warren Winders’ “Wild River” helps us find joy in nights blanketed with snow and stars. “Piss Holes” retells one sliver of precious time. With the line “Arms across our shoulders.” You can see them together, careless in youth, joyous in freedom. “Young and drunk and laughing with our hair long and wild,” he wrote, painting a scene of time before adulthood with pressures and weights wedging itself between foolish, magical times with our siblings.
After my first time meeting Warren Winders at a Trout Unlimited meeting decades after he began reading, observing, fishing, grieving and writing, I realized I had just encountered someone larger than I yet understood. That introduction was random, not in the mist of his early days on the East Branch or Hawaii or freezing motionless, watching a buck approach carefully through a wilting tan field. We met later in his life, dozens of chapters into his absorbing this wild world around us. My recommendation is to begin “Wild River” on any page. Absorb his recollections randomly. Trout and tears pass quietly through pages in no order. Some of both will remain with you, others may pass as Billy and Linda and Stan and Bess have but when you close Warren’s book, I suggest you start again. On any page.
A test of our own humanity, even our basic dignity, is on full display right now as a nation reconsiders how we have treated people and races and wild places. Warren’s images, painted with a well-worn brush, will guide you well because he’s been watching running water and when you reach the last page, you will see how much natural brightness still exists, then you can pause and start again.
“Wild River” is available through Salter Trout Press in Abington, Ma. and at
Writers note. I decided not to interview Warren before writing this piece, thinking it better to let his writing answer my questions. Warren speaks the language of people while listening to how Nature speaks, which not all of us will ever hear. I found every answer I needed on the pages of Wild River.