Harvesting Fog is the most recent book of more than 30 by Luci Shaw. The metaphor behind her book’s title derives from the odd factoid (found in The National Geographic) that very little rain falls in Lima, Peru, and the locals “harvest fog” for water, hanging rags or nets in the persistent clammy mist, then wringing them out the condensed moisture for their daily needs. Shaw likens this gathering to the writing of poems. In the writer’s mind ideas and images are snared from the seen and unseen worlds to form poems.
Here’s how she describes the process: “Aha, I thought. That’s a lot like writing poems. Something’s in the air, a word, an impression, a rhythmic phrase, a small connection. You grab it and then you catch more drops and pool them together, wringing some fresh meaning out of them and as if by miracle this mystery, this moisture becomes a new entity that satisfies a thirsty imagination. The art is in the awareness of “moisture”; the craft is in the “wringing.” In her Fore Word the author claims that “such harvesting is something that happens when the mind is open to possibility.”
Often that possibility has to do with the large questions of faith, or the affirmation of a vision. It requires concerted attention to detail in the larger landscape of human experience. There is nothing that is not worthy of that attention, producing poems that deal with the ordinary and extraordinary. Her subjects range from bees, prismatic light, an Andy Goldsworthy construction, gravestones, a fallen leaf, an airport walkway, weight loss, a woodpile, fallen snow, a mission trip to Nicaragua, and even the darkness of human failure in “The Two of Them,” a poem in couplets that begins: “He’s the black plug that fits no socket,/She’s the small change that weights the pocket” and ends with “He’s a chimera, a heat mirage./They’re the gas fumes in their own garage.” The poem “Massage” reflects on the comfort of human touch, and the blessing of divine healing.
The Fore Word concludes: “The idea of fog gives me hope—all those little particles of reality waiting to be collected into water for cleansing, for thirst,” and invites the reader to “give the poems time to gather, to soak them in.”