A veteran poetry teacher delivers a volume of verse.
The title poem of Tramonte’s (Underwater, 1988, etc.) incisive collection contrasts a dog and a tiger: “A dog runs after everything you throw / Not so, a tiger / A tiger runs for the throat / Of the person / Throwing.” The tiger doesn’t mince or haphazardly chase, doodling across the lawn; its preferred vector is the straight line, and it launches with deadly accuracy, ready to deliver pain. The author, it seems, is more a tiger than a dog, and her poems frequently shoot right to the heart of the matter, telling the whole truth—with no slant. Sometimes, these truths are personal; in “Do I like you?” she answers the title question briefly: “I don’t really like you / And I never felt at ease / Around your skeevy presence.” Others are more universal—if no more palatable. In “Why not?” she writes: “The longer / We live / The more pain.” Such revelations provide no succor, but it is a delight to read verse that cuts so quickly to the quick. The poet writes in short lines; few get past four or five words. In the work of lesser writers, such an approach feels slapdash, a swift way to fill a page with white space. Not so with Tramonte. Her lines are arrows with the fletching removed: thin, potent, and deadly effective. Which isn’t to say that there’s no fun in this book. Indeed, some of the best works are infused with dark humor. The cleverest among these is “Green Is,” which reads in part: “Sixty is the new thirty / Sex, the new kiss / Steeples are the new staples / Food, the new enemy.” We get the joke, but then Tramonte twists the knife: “Guns remain the same.” You can almost hear the poet raising her eyebrow as she writes the line, and such subtle surprises fill this accomplished, arresting volume.
A rousing, penetrating poetry collection.