Book Reviews

Esteban Rodríguez

Fruit
by Bruce Snider

University of Wisconsin Press, 96 pages

In John 15:5, Jesus, in his description of himself, says, “I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing.” But what happens when you begin to question not only what a higher power has destined for you, but the status quo that seeks to shape your understanding of the world? If you don’t readily accept the systems and institutions you’ve come to know at face value, you arrive at such thoughtful interpretations like those in Bruce Snider’s third collection Fruit, whose poems ponder and rebel against traditional and outdated notions of sexuality, love, and how one is expected to live.

Snider’s poems have the ability to capture the totality of past moments, and nowhere is this most clearly on display than in the title poem “Fruit.” The speaker remembers his art class (either in middle school or high school) and the true meaning behind a rather violent moment:

            Starkey pushed me, scrawled dick on
            the back of my chair, his broad

            shoulders growing broader
            by the second. I watched the flies,
            how they crawled on
            the flushed skin of the peaches.
            I drew them, too—were there six
            or seven?—dragging my eraser

            down my arm as if I could be erased,
            as if I might disappear into Starkey’s broad
            shoulders, his hard mouth. Sex,
            I figured, was as tragic as flies
            Stalled on a bowl’s lip near peaches.

            (p. 11, ll. 5-17)

The speaker can’t help but relate the sexual undertones of Starkey’s force upon his body to the flies on the peaches, which he knows are losing their purity as they are being touched. The speaker is losing his when he realized the attraction to Starkey. If it ever came to sex, however, and this shove was what led to it, then there is a violence that is inexcusable and so utterly “tragic,” as the speaker so aptly puts it.

While a concern of Fruit centers on the body and desire, another focuses on its survival. In the 1976 book The Selfish Gene, Richard Dawkins proposes that replicating the gene is the main purpose of selection (passing our genes leads to a greater fitness). But despite how selfish our genes may appear to be, Snider examines how others look at their own bodies and what it means across generations. In “Childless,” one of many poems with the same title, the speaker reflects on his friend and his ideas on offspring:

            My friend Mike thinks having kids is vanity, the desire to have one’s genetic
            material—to borrow the evolutionary term—selected. When I think of
            vanity, I think of my father trimming his dark beard. You get your brains from
            the Snider side, he’d say, sitting in his room, oiling his Colts, Winchesters,
            Enfields. He taught me how to load each one. When I was nine, he gave me
            my own knife to gut the rabbits. When I was ten, he pushed me into the
            lake to teach me to swim: For your son, you’ll do the same.

            (p. 19, ll. 1-7)

Although not directly implied, the speaker can’t help but think that there is some truth to what his friend Mike is saying about children, in part because he believes that his father is teaching him how to hunt and swim out of a sense that he wants himself to survive through his son, and in part because he doesn’t know if he will do the same for his son or children. In another “Childless” poem, Snider dives beyond vanity and ponders how the body must be sacrificed for a child:

            My friend now calls the fetus inside her the parasite. She retches over the
            toilet all night, suffers weeklong migraines. Hospitalized, she tells me
            she’s read about a kind of spider who gives birth, then surrenders her
            body, allowing the hatchlings to swarm her and feed.

            (p. 56, ll. 1-4)

The body here is rendered as nothing more than a host, and although a part of it will live genetically through the child, as well as mimetically, it is not an exact replication and therefore it won’t live in its entirety forever, which is perhaps the antithesis of the only thing the body wants.

While Snider can at times leave us with rather jarring scenes, such as the one above, there are others that showcase moments that invert traditional gender roles and how one need not follow what society deems they must based on their sex:

            A boy can love his sister’s doll,
            touch its swiveling
            legs, knots of acrylic hair, and imagine
            this is the child he’s given
            birth to in his closet
            while his parents are asleep. He can nurse
            and soothe it; and it will say: mother,
            teaching him its dead eyes
            and its plastic body
            as he puts on
            its stillness without fear or grief.

            (“Toy Box,” p. 50, ll. 1-11)

The boy is not concerned with playing with the doll, but rather with caring for it, ensuring that like any child, it knows it is loved and will be loved in the future.

There is violence that the speaker in many poems must confront, and yet he never responds with anger or violence, but instead with an understanding that will ultimately lead to reconciliation, even if past actions can’t be entirely wiped clean from one’s memory. In “Cleaning My Father’s Rifle,” the speaker has the chore of cleaning his father’s gun after a hunt:

                                                  I wipe
            away thorn-gash
                   and the wild
            cherry’s deep sweetness, the cold

            body as it stiffens, summer
            collapsing into
                   teeth and hooves, ripeness
            and ease—pine
            shadow
                   over his unlaced work
            boot, sparrows, smashed
            beer can’s rusty
                                 lip. I wipe away
            it all, even the entrails
            he burns
                   in the fire

            pit, even their climb toward
            the unreachable
                   heavens, curling
            upward, whitening
            to ash.

            (p. 23, ll. 47-67)

Although not closure, there is something ceremonial about the speaker cleaning the remnants of violence off the rifle and seeing the remains of the animals “climb toward / the unreachable / heavens” (ll. 63-67), which hopefully provides peace the speaker has been seeking.

Fruit is a collection full of mourning as much as it is of celebration, of knowing the tragedies and contradictions in the world and attempting to find what solace can be offered. Snider’s work is nothing short of an offering, one that is sure to make a believer out of anyone.


Esteban Rodríguez  is the author of  Dusk & Dust  (Hub City Press 2019),  Crash Course  (Saddle Road Press 2019),  (Dis)placement  (Skull Wind Press 2020), and the micro-chapbook  Soledad  (Ghost City Press 2019). His poetry has appeared in  The Gettysburg ReviewNew England ReviewTriQuarterly, and elsewhere. He lives with his family and teaches in Austin, Texas.

 

 

Lindsay Lusby

Smell-O-Poetics: A Review of Atomizer
by Elizabeth A. I. Powell

LSU Press, 112 pages

If I had to choose just one thing that poets and perfume-lovers have in common, it would be this: both possess an insatiable obsession with obsession. They collect and catalog. They peel back every layer. They think, speak, dream in the language of association. They break open the animal mechanism of desire to find out how it works. In Elizabeth A. I. Powell’s Atomizer, scent becomes the associative language the poet uses to navigate us through the complex human circuitry of seduction and religion, biology and romance.

In “The Ordinary Odor of Reality,” Powell tells us:

            Outer space smells like rum,
            so says spectral analysis,
            but all my trauma reeks of
            baby powder and chlorine.

            (p. 30, ll. 4-7)

Is there a way to describe this any more vividly? We can only approach the unknown through the language of what we already know. We can only map strange territory with the familiar tools we hold in our sense memory. Imagine you are describing a UFO encounter to a police sketch artist, but you can’t use sight or sound cues. How can smell alone possibly fill in these gaps? (We all binge-watch X-Files and Law & Order: SVU, right?) The power of these scent images is in their association with what we know—how they build an emotional landscape the same way triggered neurons retrieve pieces from our complex web of memories and reassemble them, snowballing from one connection to the next and the next. Even more than poems that rely on the more expected visual imagery to pull the reader into the world they are building, Powell’s scent-driven poems get inside the reader’s head, using our own experiences connected to these familiar scents to create the poems’ associative reality:

            I am having a smell dialogue
            with mold and wet earth and sand
            that resides in the woods and playground
            inside my memory.

            (p. 30, ll. 15-18)

I do have to confess that I am not a stranger to this intersection of poetry and perfume. I jumped headfirst down this rabbit hole back in 2014 while co-editing an anthology called The Book of Scented Things: 100 Contemporary Poems About Perfume. So, Powell didn’t have to do much to charm me with her poems, but she did anyway. The voice that permeates this collection is one that is simultaneously confident, vulnerable, and most of all, curious. This curiosity is met with an unguarded honesty and dry humor that I trust without question. She seamlessly incorporates the jargon of online dating into poem after poem—even the Shulammite woman swipes left and right here. History, art, and pop culture are woven throughout, from I Dream of Jeannie to the Song of Solomon.

There are moments in Atomizer when I wonder if maybe the scent language Powell is creating here is a new kind of floriography, without the Victorian petticoats and corsets. In the poems about her mother, the scent that overwhelms us is lavender, lavender, lavender. So, lavender becomes not only associative, but symbolic. The recurring scents in the Biblical poems are frankincense, myrrh, balsam, rose. In the poems of desire and seduction, they are civet, citrus, patchouli, cardamom. Some of these are part of the long-held language of smells and ingredients created by perfumers, their passed-down knowledge of attraction and chemistry and lust. But some are much more personal and contemporary. In “Poem with Atoms in It,” Powell’s synesthesia explodes these scent associations outward and inward. Scents trigger visceral responses in her other senses—certain smells become colors or tastes or touch sensations.

Not only does she create these beautiful scent-maps with her lush lines and precise word choice, Powell explores some of the strange science of scent and the biology of desire. “Arousal is a communication the body makes,” she says in her poem “Spritz” (p. 46, l. 5). In this poem, we learn about smell dating, where potential (human) mates are matched through the compatibility of their pheromones:

            Even the bees
            pollinating roses and jasmine for endnotes know
            the olfactory signatures of their own group.

            (p. 46, ll. 9-11)

When it comes to cattle matchmaking on a dairy farm, it’s not hard to see (or smell) the depressing parallels:

            The barn’s romance
            filled with the stench of nitrogen.

            (p. 41, ll. 3-4)

In “The Book of Sires,” Powell gives us the sad, clinical truth of it:

            [T]he best way
            to propagate is at a distance where
            you can’t smell the raw stench
            of sex, where it is practical,
            based on actual data for mating.

            (p. 41, ll. 28-33)

She closes this poem with what seems like just another intriguing smell factoid, but it becomes a grave gut-punch:

            For to perfume is to cover up truth,
            like the way the Oscar Mayer factory
            used to scent the air all around
            Madison, Wisconsin, with fake sweet,
            strawberry scent, so no one thought
            about the entrails and bones of those bulls
            and their tortured burning.

            (p. 42, ll. 25-30)

Nothing kills the mood faster than the smell of death (and complicity).

Rather than the zoomed-out, God’s-eye view of it all, Powell’s poems draw our eye in closer—to all of the individual molecules that comprise this human experience:

            This poem disperses my existence,
            separating it into parts—words, sprays,
            dots of color, scents.

            (p. 63, ll. 19-21)

Think of a chord of music, which is made of several different notes played simultaneously. Powell’s poems shift the focus from the chords of scent and experience to the individual notes that comprise them—all the top notes, the heart notes, and the base notes. This concept is built into the structure of the book itself, in which even the section titles become poems listing their evocative combinations of scents: “Bergamot, Blood, Clouds, Clove, Metal Desk” (p. 7) or “Patchouli, Bedsheet, Cut Grass, Oak Moss, Burning Hair” (p. 51). The effect of this is again tied up in the web of associations that each of these individual scents (or ideas of scents) creates. Breaking down each whole into its atoms turns the magical inside out so we can see the science underneath. But then, when we search further and look under the hood of science, we see magic again.


Lindsay Lusby  is the author of the poetry collection  Catechesis: a postpastoral  (The University of Utah Press, 2019), as well as two chapbooks,  Blackbird Whitetail Redhand  (Porkbelly Press, 2018) and  Imago  (dancing girl press, 2014). Her poems have appeared most recently in  New SouthGulf CoastThe Cincinnati ReviewPassages North, and  Plume. With Jehanne Dubrow, she has co-edited two poetry anthologies, including  The Book of Scented Things: 100 Contemporary Poems about Perfume  (Literary House Press, 2014). Her first lyric essay “You Never Think It Could Happen To You: A Reckoning with True Crime” will be published in the Fall 2020 issue of Waxwing. She is a Senior Poetry Reader for Cherry Tree.

 

 

David Rigsbee

Middle Distance
by Stanley Plumly

Norton, 96 pages

Death is our most faithful mirror. The image it gives back to us is what the late Stanley Plumly calls “the dream of the end of day.” It puts readers (certainly this reader) in mind of the classic trope that secures final truth for the words of the moribund, who no longer have a horse to play in the game of the world. Rorty called it our “final vocabulary,” by which he meant that the expressive buck stops: there are no more words to spin out the words we say then. No more spin, which also means no more irony, as Kafka, no less, reminded us. The very idea is itself ironic, of course, since the poet’s truths are lost on the poet at the end (being the end) and another, petite irony peeps around the corner in the form of the reader, who continues to spin for the deceased. The poem of the the dead poet thus manages an ambivalence unavailable to those on this side of the soil. It exists, as Plumly came to see, in the “middle distance” between being and not being, between the past that gets more than a comb-over here, and the future with its dread question mark. He takes the term from Constable, and I note that among his services to the Romantic era is a volume (Elegy Landscapes) on the dreamy Constable and the dynamic, essence-dissolving Turner, the twin towers of English landscape painting.

The opening poem, “White Rhino,” proposes the poet as a relic, the last of a breed. It is not, as you might suspect, a sly means of self-aggrandizement. Rather, he finds himself heavy with rumination:

            I hardly recognize myself except in
            memory, except when the mind overwhelms the lonely
            body. So I lumber on, part of me empty, part of me
            filled with longing…

            (p. 19, ll. 13-15)

As the collection makes plain, the poet is facing his terminus, thanks to the multiple myeloma he observes is “still multiplying,” but his instinct is less to revert to magical thinking, than to sort himself out as a poet whose matter involves the particulars of his life, from scenes of his rural Ohio beginnings and onward to the products of his imagination, where time is malleable and anachronisms timely. He becomes, in the title poem, one of Constable’s clouds:

            Constable is aging, failing.
            He thinks I am a cloud, a long white body
            lying in the air over Hampstead, he thinks
            clouds of storm shapes are bodies, like great elms.
            I’m his anomaly, still thinning out.
            Another day he sees me lying down
            undulant in the middle distance, the
            cloud come at last to earth as if the earth is
            part of the corn, the good ground under corn,
            the painting piecemeal, the way he paints, so
            that you have to stand at a real middle
            distance just to see me.

            (p. 20, ll. 1-12)

The metamorphoses in the poem depict the poet becoming his subject’s images, cloud, water, and sky. In his previous works, Posthumous Keats and Immortal Evening, you sensed the poet’s desire to join the visionary company, and The Middle Distance, you find the same fantasy at work. But when Blake wrote “they became what they beheld,” the description was not meant as a compliment. Rather, it was a caution that our minds not be taken hostage by our very projections. In “The Middle Distance” it is Constable who projects Stanley Plumly. For him, a poet is citizen or every world, including the world in which he didn’t exist.

            And I am the water.
            And he light on the water. And if it
            is possible, having also been of
            the plowed and planted and replanted earth,
            I am the sky domed over the boat boy’s
            possible future, when he then arrives
            and put to work all that really matters.

            (p. 20. ll. 21-27)

Just as equally, the poet’s own life traces an elasticity from which meaning is applied to past events. In “Sycamore,” for instance, he recalls being asked to describe the meaning of a leaf to his second grade class. He chooses a sycamore, the tree of choice for poets who thrill at the lovesick pun, but finds himself wordless, an occasion that concludes in much-delayed eloquence:

            As I remember,
            these thousand years ago, I held it from my body
            as if while I was talking it had died and my story
            was an elegy of time, the season passing, winter
            coming on. Of course, this is a lie: I was silent
            and stood there in my cylinder of silence like
            the tree the leaf had fallen from, until the teacher,
            in her mercy, told me to sit down, the way
            I am sitting now, typing.

            (p. 24, ll. 17-25)

Much of Middle Distance touches on friends and family who have gone before, including a former wife, the poet Deborah Digges, who appears in three poems. Many of these remembrances occur in prose sections that muse in greater depth on the perplexities of loss and the inescapable wish to call the dead forth:

            When
            Deborah jumped, for instance, she
            must have thought what was under
            her was water willing to love her
            the way she was loved by so many.
            Suicide is about the imagination.
            It’s a decision based on evidence.

            (“Travel and Leisure,” p. 27, ll. 19-25)

Death lays down the challenge, without which there are no miracles, and indeed no imagination. Thus, in “Jesus Wept,” he makes a startling assertion:

            I believe in death, I believe in the last tree I will
            ever see, perhaps with wind in it just as it’s turning color.
            I believe in my friends’ weeping and in the terrible sorrow
            of my wife, but why, on this side of things with death still
            only a small secret moving inside me, am I so hurt with pity
            for myself, as if, one by one, anything I touch will disappear,
            whatever I see deeply will suddenly become invisible to me?

            (p. 79, ll. 13-19)

The white rhino, who in his other life is a cloud, feels with singular pathos the challenge of each demise. The question comes down to this; what to do, now that I am myself dying, in order to call forth that other who will die again with my passing? It is a terrible question, not made the more acceptable by the answer: this book. And yet…, as Randall Jarrell would point out, and yet with its own roomy appeal, its arm straightened against necessity. It comes down to a question of fitness, even worthiness, somehow: the burden of the soon-to-be dead is to set down in figures, to intone in song, the commemorative weight of the long-ago. Of what worth are these recollections, and by what agency does the poet amass them? Surely there comes into play the singularity of the poet, forced but free, to be the lone author of his subjects:

            and what is this loneliness we long for in that someone
            no one else can be, who lives or dies, depending,
            but who was there, whatever the moment was?

            (“Planet,” p. 23, ll.12-14)

Plumly’s vulnerability is appealing. because it rises to the altitude of worth on the strength of its own lyric ambivalence and puzzlement. Such paradoxes are ever present in Middle Distance, as the poet faces the wall of his life. A poetry situated on paradox becomes itself a kind of recognition of the narrowing in-betweenness in which living, thinking, and feeling are conducted, figured by the slipping in and out of consciousness, as well as shifting depictions of those moments he finds that he carries to the end:

            You get lost in
            consciousness when day turns to night and back again and you
            see into different eyes and the solution you’re floating in lets you
            ride in deeper, higher silence. You could fall into the heart of
            your grave and not know it, which I believe I did when those lung
            doctors thought the heard me break a last breath.

            (“Night Pastorals,” p. 75, ll. 21-26)

In the prose and poetry section, innocuous entitled “Travel & Leisure,” he notes that “No one died, nor was ever going to die.” (p. 29, l. 3). He frames the challenge of writing a “successful” poem by invoking the journeys of other poets, especially Keats, whose movements he actually traces in the manner of Richard Holmes, putting his feet into the footprints of the beloved predecessor. He was, as he says, “on my way to the Keats house”:

            He’s coached up to the Hampstead from
            London proper, on some of the same route as my morning trips,
            Pond Street, with its icy wind, deep dive, and small reservoir
            at the bottom, proves to be the fateful walk leading of his first
            hemorrhage, his “death warrant.”

            (p. 30 ll. 14-18)

            …Keats meets Coleridge for the one
            and only time, on an April Sunday: “There
            is death in that hand,” Coleridge
            would write…

            (p. 29, ll.26-28, p. 30, l. 1)

With so much death on the loose and the looping, inescapable thinking about death, you would be forgiven for expecting the result to be a downer. It is not. It is shot through with Plumly’s tenderness toward his memories and toward the self as the container of those memories, and of the poems that take figure from them. It is terrifying to think that tenderness is so often associated with sentimentality, but if anything, it’s a quality that becomes a value. The value, in its turn, offers expression to the inchoate, especially as the poet’s consciousness goes drifting in his hospital surroundings, where the cheerful awfulness of professionals and the blandly reductive but scary surroundings become inimical to imagination’s usual environment:

            You enter, in our
            mind, in the white darkness of a hospital, half here, half there, all
            kinds of corridors of time.

            (“Night Pastorals,” p. 75, ll. 7-9)

It is a vulnerability, but with that comes encased in veteran toughness, of insistence that the dreamlike quality of old age is itself a summation of the self’s lumbering pilgrimage. The point is not only that death awaits, that the poet is set to become, in Seferis’ term, a “void,” (he asks of Turner, “is void nothing?”) but that the work, often meandering between times and places, testifies to the harmony within disharmony of contingent moments. Is it only we who worry death like a straw in a beetle hole? The rest of living beings are satisfied with the present tense, itself a zone we often pay lip-service to, but rarely one in which we live. And yet that sense that the possession of mind, whether focused or drifting, equals tragedy is also ennobling. Astute readers may pick up on this mic-dropping moment when the poet admits self-pity and tie it to Elizabeth Bishop’s character Crusoe in “Crusoe in England,” who asks, “What’s wrong with self-pity, anyway?” We should all be so pitiful.

Not unlike his Ohio predecessor James Wright, Plumly came to imagine a country of the mind, in his case the Britain of Keats and Coleridge. Unlike Wright, who chose Italy, Plumly’s country of the mind is not a synonym for utopia, but culturally it’s not far from it, and the corrective knowledge available to the future doesn’t diminish its glories, either. If anything, they gain by way of contrast, just as his own journey from a farm in Ohio to the imaginative land of the great Romantic poets and painters marks each end of the spectrum, geographically and historically, as pertinent to the poet he became. In the sway and quiver of his winter dreaming he moves from humble origins (Ohio farm, father’s strong hands and drinking, mother’s “peasant” feet and manual work) to an adopted country where the romantic hero’s steps insinuate an enhanced landscape whose borders are as metaphysical as they are political or geographic. It is helpful to be reminded that Keats himself died in Italy, a land of apotheosis, and so in his roundabout way, Plumly’s final lines join up not only with Keats, but with Wright.

            I think
            I fell deeply and drifted in the dream itself
            of lying there, like those childhood naps
            in which we see ourselves sleeping afraid
            someone will wake us. Someone always does.

            (“Travel & Leisure,” ll. 19-23)

In addition to Plumly’s memories of childhood on the farm, he writes a prose account of German prisoners (“Germans”) indentured to serve the U.S. war effort in World War II. These prisoners, taciturn but skilled and efficient, work for a tree-cutting operation under the command of the National Guard—and under the watchful eye of Plumly’s father. As ex-soldiers, they seem to understand they were drafted as fodder for the Reich and now labor their way toward an unknown future. The eight-year-old poet knows “They are after all Nazis, a self-proclaimed race apart.” At the same time, he begins to understand that “..in this moment, in the spring of 1944, at the mill or out in the woods, this sense of this enemy as the absolute enemy, this sense of the particular men fades…” (p. 51, ll 29-31)

For all his deliberations, Plumly doesn’t come across as someone who would succumb to gray profundity. That wouldn’t do. Rather, his poems impress as deeply felt, mercifully free of ginned-up rhetoric, willing to shelve verse and go with prose when the need arises. He doesn’t signal that the poem is meant to repose in its aesthetic certainty—he is much too ambivalent for that—but his vulnerability that it might not work out leavens his work and furthers its authenticity. For example, in “Deathbed,” he reflects,

            I think I’ll die in a chair. In the ward there’d be those
            so wrapped up and infused you’d think they already
            passed into some place in between, and perhaps,
            for the moment, they had—they’d come back smiling,
            the slow degrees of pain nearly gone from their faces.
            I was lucky, I was only alive, just starting on the journey.
            The ward chairs, with windows, were like lounge chairs.
            You could fall asleep and not know where you were.

            (p. 63, ll 1-8)

In the hospital ward, the days roll obdurately to the end, and time is upended. In one case, he believes he might have died, only to be revived by the doctors. He imagines himself joining the commonality of the mortal coil in quite a literal way:

            The ones with wigs enter the sterile space
            with their eyes cast down, the ones with
            kerchiefs focus on the air straight ahead
            of them—I still have my hair, though only in
            a sort of slow-growth way, like frost on a stone.

            (“The Ward,” p. 69, ll. 1-5)

In “Night Pastorals,” he joins the citizenship of the ward and speaks on behalf of its brief denizens, who also experience, even if they don’t make a point of revealing that they know, that the distinction between living and being dead is in fact indistinct. At this point he has become the chorus. It doesn’t take Auden to remind us that, in the next step, he will become “the words of a dead man.” Not only that, those words will be “modified in the guts of the living.” Plumly seems to have taken Auden’s diagram to heart. The result is a book impressive in range, full of surprises and confirmations, lyrical grace, and marks of expired heydays:

            close your eyes for too long and you can be gone. We thought the
            dream was a dream: we thought this later.

            (p. 77, ll. 3-4)

In “At Night,” a very fine elegy for his mother, whose habitual sitting and smoking in the dark becomes absence itself, he turns mid-poem into self-elegy:

            Where would she go, because I would go there.
            In the morning, nothing but a blanket, and all her
            absence and the feeling in the air of happiness.
            And so much loneliness, a kind of purity of being
            and emptiness, no one you are or ever could be,
            my mother like another me in another life, gone
            where I will go, night now likely dark enough
            I can be alone as I’ve never been alone before.

            (p. 80, ll. 8-14)

Being and emptiness serve each other well here, as do loneliness and happiness. They are abstractions, sure, but they don’t read that way. They convey an intimacy that is long-lived and intuitive, a mutual knowledge that the body carries as long as it can. When I finished the collection, I was reminded of lines from Troilus and Cressida. It’s Hector greeting the old advisor of his enemies, Nestor:  “Let me embrace thee, good old chronicle,/That hast so long walk’d hand in hand with time.” That’s the kind of feeling Middle Distance leaves you with. David Baker, Michael Collier, and Margaret Forian Plumly are to be commended for preparing, with notes, this valedictory collection of one of our most big-hearted and thoughtful poets.


David Rigsbee is the author of, most recently, This Much I Can Tell You (2017) and Not Alone in My Dancing:  Essays and Reviews (2015), both from Black Lawrence Press.  His translation of Dante’s  Paradiso is forthcoming from Salmon Poetry.  He is a contributing editor for The Cortland Review.