No Less Than Requisite:
Poems for Unprecedented Times
Tanya Holtland’s Requisite covers an expansive emotional and ecological landscape in ninety-three short pages, making it a quick read but not at all an easy one. The poetry collection centers around the concept of spiritual ecology, Holtland’s interest in the subject springing from a life “spent … in a quiet tryst with nature.” The impetus behind many of the poems in this debut comes from the author’s belief that “healing what is severed between the earth and us begins with a willingness to look.” Indeed, much of the strength and emotional intensity behind these poems derive from the author’s sustained gaze.
Crafted sparingly, the short poems in Requisite force the reader to confront themselves in the abundant white space, to measure their breathing, and to consider the weight of each word. One whole page reads only, “there is the water / in greens and blues / changing its direction.” There is something majestic in the solitary image, something that calls to those same wide open spaces inside of ourselves.
Other poems encompass uniquely human aches and longings. In “Inner River,” Holtland writes that “…the desire / for suicide / is more than it seems,” going on to make the link that “… darkness / at its core is the desire / for transformation.” She weaves compassion into a familiar narrative. Holtland also grapples with the challenge of living in this world without causing harm, asking, “What in us / needs to die first / for the rest to continue living?” She enjoins the reader to consider “how to move through the world / incurring as little pain as possible, / trying to become a complete thing / without attachment to anyone / or completeness.”
One of the lingering images in Requisite comes from “The Story,” wherein Holtland describes plastic as an “immortal substance” and notes the fearful, frenetic energy humankind pours into production as one of the ways in which our species attempts to distract ourselves from and outdistance death.
Requisite evokes the richness of the earth, each seedling poem unfurling in the reader’s mind. Holtland delivers a powerful message throughout the collection with compelling, short lines like, “The thing about believing only in fate— / it saves you the pain / of having to risk the decisions of living.” The author strips away familiar, comforting platitudes, leaving no room for a passive life. In these—wait for it—unprecedented times, Holtland’s poetry collection serves as a gentle reminder that we are not entirely separate from the earth, that the heart of spiritual ecology resolves to the simple, tender admonishment that “the earth is on a spiritual journey parallel to our own.”
Requisite evokes the richness of the earth, each seedling poem unfurling in the reader’s mind.
REVIEWED BY SUSANNE SALEHI
Susanne Salehi is a queer writer and Memphis expat currently residing in Atlanta with her partner and two cats. Her labels are INFP, Taurus, and 4w5, and she spends her free time hiking and doing jigsaw puzzles. She works in higher education and daydreams about rugby and writing retreats. You can follow her Instagram @bookishcreature if you need more pictures of cats and books in your life.