Because this is my final residency, I have a bit more discretionary time between lectures. So, Val and I took books and journals down to The Tenth Muse, a local bookshop that serves espresso drinks. Nearing the end of Figured Dark, I was surprised to discover the epigraph to “The Salt Cairn”: “Seaside, Oregon.” We had just made the walk down Broadway ourselves, just like the speaker’s family, “our lungs thick / with a cold we carried / through the taffy shop and pinball palace / to a carousel no one rides / in this ragged carnival town.”
This is a remarkable, confident, mature collection by a poet I am grateful to have met through the blogosphere. These are poems about cancer, divorce, and the possible violence — both physical and emotional — that linger beneath the surface of ordinary life. But there is also a striking metaphysical dimension, from the opening conversation with God to the angelic figures of great poets, birds, dead saints, and fire. Unpretentious and elegiac, these poems progress like the epigraph to “Elegy for Light and Balance,” notes on Winslow Homer from “a catalog” which point out, “Homer depended on narrative structures that would, just as they begun to suggest a normal unfolding, deflect the viewer from obvious and easy interpretations.” This is a tremendous collection, delivered, in my case, in a moment of delightful synchronicity.