In this poetry collection, Snyder (Tending the Light, 2015) invites willing readers in with poignant commentaries on life, death, and fatherhood, among other topics.
Poetry is meant to make readers see the world through a different set of eyes, to brush aside the veil of everyday life and allow them to contemplate things from a fresh perspective. The best poets, however, offer more: they offer an alternate consciousness. Snyder’s collection does just that, lending his readers an awareness of life as he understands it in pleasing and accessible language. These poems range in scope from simple modern haiku (“morning dew / in the teacups we left / by the campfire”) to soliloquies on the nature of time: “Time is a tightrope / stretched between the poles / of wanting and not wanting.” There are intimate elegies, such as “For Kathy,” which celebrates a life of love in a short poem graced by Wordsworth-ian simplicity. This collection is varied in its subjects, as demonstrated by the poet’s poignant reflections on illness and disability (“Love Letter to My Left Hand,” “Should Things Become Blurred”) as well as death itself (“Different Advice on Death,” “Mr. Death”). He moves from the personal (“Lux Perpetua: four octets for my son” and “When He Was Twelve”) to the religious and mythological in “Ikaros,” “The Remembered Thorn,” and “Shakyamuni’s Road.” Existential questions appear in poems such as “The Hand,” tempting the reader to stop and contemplate them: “What will we do then / with the unlived parts of our lives? / The hand can hold / only so much.” The explanatory notes at the end aren’t necessary for readers to understand and appreciate the poems, but they show Snyder’s consideration of the reader—a trait that’s all too rare among contemporary poets.
A delightful compilation by a poet who has much to offer.