Now that I’ve felt the elation
of the sighting of 200-plus species
of African birds, and heard
the rumbling of lions and hippos,

where could I possibly go from here?

— “Swept Away” (Heaven Underfoot, Codhill Press, 2023)

Book cover of TREAD SOFTLY by Dr. Diana Woodcock features a floral diptych on a warm orange ground.

© 2024 Diana Woodcock, Ph.D.

Under the Spell of a Persian Nightingale

Richard Snyder Publication Prize Finalist

Phillip H. McMath Post Publication Book Award Finalist

The desert narratives in Diana Woodcock’s third poetry collection become scenes of lush lyricism, color and life bursting from the arid landscapes. In her review of Under the Spell of a Persian Nightingale, Deborah Fleming notes that what we learn from Woodcock’s collection of lyrics about the Arabian Peninsula is “to put away preconceptions about the desert and learn to embrace a new way of seeing a landscape we thought barren but which is an ecosystem rich with sensory detail that has much to teach us about beauty as well as economy. This is no utopian hideaway, however; we have to look past oil rigs and pipelines in order to perceive the birds and flowers, and we are reminded that we all have to be vigilant about protecting every ecosystem from the ravages of industrialism.”


“Diane Woodcock displays such keen sense of finding beauty and wonder in the most unexpected moments. These poems sing the difficult songs of finding a sense of home both in the Middle East and in the Everglades of Florida--mayhem laced with the marvelous balms of surprising metaphor when interrogating celebrations of life and death. The speaker promises, ‘You’ll feel a kinship with spiny-tailed lizard, desert lark, kopje and jebel. The smallest pebble will become kin.’ But most importantly, this book ultimately reminds us to pay close attention to our natural surroundings in order to uncover beautiful truths about the human condition.”

—Aimee Nezhukumatathil, author of Lucky Fish, At the Drive-in Volcano, and Miracle Fruit

“Throughout the ages, poets and prophets have gone out into the desert for inspiration. In that vast quiet, far from the petty bickering of the tribe, they can hear their inner voice, the voice of God. Wherever they live, in Arctic waste or urban jungle, poets must have the courage to confront their own personal desert: the seeming emptiness within, the blank expanses of the page before them. They discover, time and time again, that this is only a seeming emptiness, that the fountains of creation flow beneath its surface. In this book, the summation of a lifetime's wandering in the dunes, Diana Woodcock digs deep beneath the sands, brings us back the ‘pure gift’ of the desert."

Dan Veach, editor of Atlanta Review, author of Elephant Water

“Woodcock does what many dream: she unites travel and engagement, belonging and adventure, reality and mystery in one singular voice. Under the Spell of a Persian Nightingale asserts that we must be ‘shaken out of complacency’ and look beyond a narrow, easy definition of home. With her, we ‘Forget moon, sun, and stars’ to revel in the desert’s ‘Shamal-driven grains of sand’ and celebrate ‘two hundred / million years of turtle life,’ then spin, ‘Dreams of safety kissed goodbye,’ to hear ‘voices from under / the hard-packed sand.’ Joining her urgency, we ‘Snap up each note and hold it / close as if it were the last.’ These are no mere travel poems; Woodcock lives long and deeply in the places she shows us, so the details come from large and complex knowing. Thus we may return having sunk deep into the ‘immeasurable, unpredictable beauty’ of new lands, deep into a new and lovely voice, ‘disturbed, awakened—hope renewed.’”

—Nancy White, author of Sun, Moon, Salt

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Bibliographic Information

  • isbn 9781625491626
  • pages 150 pp.
  • format 6 x 9" Paperback
  • publication date November 6, 2015
  • publisher Word Poetry Books