Gary Metras’s The Moon in the Pool is a small book that packs a big poetic punch. Metra makes something out of what appears to be nothing at first sight. Mundane items, such as stones or the sight of an old man, serve as inspiration for Metras. It is not surprising, then, that Metras has ten other books under his belt. The Moon in the Pool is the work of a seasoned poet, a writer accustomed to having his way with words. But there is more to these poems; they make us what we already are. In other words, they tap into our shared humanity.
Woven throughout these poems is so much music, art, myth, magic, politics, and even the domestic, in such a silky and natural interplay, that it is possible to read them over and over, uncovering a little more each time. Though I think that each of the books is powerful in itself, having these three together creates a far grander picture, where each poem is informed by, changed, and strengthened by those around it. So we understand this imaginative work to be a multiverse, rich with hell and heaven together, and also our daily struggles – love, death, desire, and loss.
According to the Introduction, I Let Go includes “some of the most experimental poems” that the editors have ever included in an anthology. In some, “the writers let go of more than just stars.” Poets Zev Torres “Jamnation” and Stephen Mead “Researching Plague” have created poems which do not lend themselves to being performed aloud; their cleverness is best appreciated on the printed page. Kit Kennedy’s “Fog Descends: I Walk into a Koan,” consisting of cryptic proverbs, and ending with “How many crows inhabit an imaginary tree?” provides food for meditation.
There is definitely a welcomed playfulness in the poems of Wet. However, one needs to search for it. Any practitioner of mindfulness would tell you that everything is a teacher if we but pay attention. Fortunately, there are books like Wet that helps lead the way.
Joanna C. Valente speaks of death in her collection of poems, Sirs and Madams. The poems remind us that we are wrong—dead wrong—if we think of death only as something that happens when life ends. This reminder weaves its way throughout the book and is most poignant when Valente writes about relationships. The stories within the poems are told by “three sisters dangerous as swans, broken into a hundred versions of themselves depending on which day of the week” (Tell Them They’re Dead, 75)
The poems in We Walk Alone by Mariah E. Wilson, remind me of the great writer John Edgar Wideman’s description of one of his characters in his Damballah. Wideman writes, “He has the gift of feeling. Things don’t touch him, they imprint.” Wilson, too, has the gift of feeling. Things don’t touch her, they imprint. For evidence, read her poetry.
At no point does the book lose its dramatic momentum. In fact, so compelling is the plot at times that it takes some effort to slow down and read the poems fully as poetry should be read, rather than racing on to see what happens. Vanishing Point is quick and easy to read, but the poems repay second and third readings where the complexity of the work begin to unfold. Diana’s self-awareness grows viscerally and sensually as she comes to accept the sensations of her adult body through the final section.
Another writer expressed “deepest gratitude” to Firth “for having left the legacy of his poetry as a comfort and a guide.” Although not wealthy in the world’s terms, Damien Firth had a rich inner life, imagination and vocabulary, and was also rich in friends, who performed this labour of love and made his poetry available to the public.
Slaight’s poetry works perfectly with Terrence Tasker’s dark charcoal images. The pictures convey angry masks, faces, slightly abstract, timeless. The book was originally produced in the 1970s, and has been dedicated to Tasker, who passed away in 1992. The book itself is an exquisite artefact – something to keep and re-read. Though the poetry isn’t pleasant, it’s powerful, evocative and uncovers a universal vein of anguish that will resonate with all readers.
Autoethnographic is a difficult read. Though the poems are deceptively prosaic, they don’t yield their messages easily, and are unsettlingly dark, disjointed, and at times, so self-referential that they feel like a chaotic nightmare. But once you let go of the desire for linearity and meaning and instead open up to the linguistic subtleties, to new modes of perception, and to the revelations which are decidedly non-linear, the work becomes quite special.