A set of 88 collected poems that offer insights with economy, wit, and gravity.
Solonche (In Short Order, 2018, etc.), an accomplished poet, employs various forms in this compilation, including haiku, prose poem, and free verse. The poems often imaginatively enter into the natural or material world via anthropomorphic similes. In “Porsche,” the speaker is driving in twilight down a country road behind the titular vehicle, which is painted white: “It looked like the ghost / of a red Porsche haunting the road // on which it had been killed.” This is a clever and surprising image, but Solonche takes it further by relating the car’s elegance to Ezra Pound’s famous dictum (“Use no superfluous word”) in the phrase “Use no unnecessary metal”; all beautiful things, whether they’re cars or poems, are related, he seems to say. He later brings out hidden correspondences; in “Last Peony,” a flower is put in a vase “among a dozen spent peonies, / each as dark as a burnt match head / the wind has blown out / before the summer can catch.” This image unveils a fiery potential force within the flowers, like the hot summer to come, reinforced by the rhyme of “match”/“catch.” Many works have an aphoristic quality that recall Zen koans, and they can be playfully amusing or even silly, as in “My New Neighbor”: “introduces herself / as ‘Pat the Former Nun.’ // Force of habit / no doubt.” However, the underlying mood is serious, even dark. In the repeated titular poem, the speaker tells readers that if they see him “walking on the road / alone in the rain,” and not smiling, “do not / be concerned”; he’ll know his location and destination. But if he is smiling: “There will be reason to worry, for I will not know / where I am, and I will not know where I am going.” For all his wit, smiling—taking things lightly, forgetting the world’s darkness—isn’t an element of the speaker’s inner compass.
A strong set of sympathetic but never sentimental observations.