A book of poetry that works a classic form for all it’s worth.
“Do not try to do everything. Do one thing well.” So said the late Steve Jobs, giving advice that debut poet Anstead seems to have taken quite seriously. The latter’s new collection does one thing and one thing only: the limerick. This, of course, is the most homespun of poetic forms, and the best-known example has arguably the most famous first line in all literature: “There once was a man from Nantucket…” This chestnut isn’t as old as one might think; it appeared in the Princeton Tiger in 1902, attributed to one Dayton Voorhees. Not to be outdone, Anstead offers roughly 200 more here. Like Voorhees’ original, each opens in a particular locale (hence the volume’s title). For example: “An eccentric young man from Toledo / Adopted “total self-expression” as his credo. / So every day, exactly at noon, / He would cause his neighbors to swoon / When he circled the block in his Speedo.” If you’re not a fan of the domestic setting, the poet is also quite happy to take you abroad: “An inventive short-order cook from Swaziland / Thought the soup du jour was rather bland. / But in his zeal to improve the corn chowder, / He hastily added so much curry powder, / That one taste was all anyone could stand.” Anstead can go on—and does—and it’s a model that may feel repetitive. However, this compilation offers more smiles than one might anticipate. The only problem is that the author has a bad habit of trying to cram too many words into a line. The third and fourth lines of a limerick, combined, traditionally skip by in 12 syllables, but Anstead’s too often push past 20. (Take the Swaziland entry above as just one example of this.) Fortunately, at the end of the day, this tic doesn’t ruin the fun.
Anstead packs lots of joy into tiny packages in this slim but playful collection.