A somewhat random collection of free verse and short prose reflections with a Midwestern flair.
“I am often visited in the middle of the night by a muse,” Pollock says. “When awakened by the muse, I rush down to my office. By the time I get there, I have a fully developed ‘piece.’…Most of the ‘pieces’ in this book materialized this way. I might wish to take credit, but mostly I’m just grateful.” This well-worn literary trope was most famously employed by Coleridge in “Kubla Khan,” though where Coleridge’s apocryphal origination story is, in fact, an extension of the creative act, Pollock’s seems to be genuine. While his work can be tender, thought-provoking, nostalgic and at times even startling, it is rarely finely crafted or polished. Amid the reflections on Midwestern childhoods, failed marriages, world travels and longitudinal studies of parent-child relationships, his very fallible narrators are mostly earnest and unruffled. They seek enlightenment through simplicity and the abnegation of attachment and expectation—“I care not what awaits. // I am open to be / catapulted by the crashing waves”—and are intoxicated by their own histories: “I still recall the joy I felt….Writing about this almost 60 years later / brings tears to my eyes.” These vacillating impulses manifest formally in the collection’s cycles of short, epigrammatic pieces—“I thought I had a problem. / I didn’t.”—and rambling, nostalgic poems such as “Rude Awakening,” “Mrs. Stokesbury and The Orange,” “Dad” (both versions) and “Mom.” The short prose piece “My Moment with a Tibetan Buddhist Monk,” exposes a narrator whose moment of egolessness ends up boosting his ego, and in “Acceptance,” another narrator’s appetites assert themselves in the midst of spiritual practice. Whatever transgressions and relapses the characters suffer, Pollock tells their stories with a wink and a smile. There are indeed some dark moments in this book—it opens with the death of an infant, after all—but the prevailing tone is one of humorous compassion and optimism.
Shot through with personal and often underdeveloped pieces, this collection nevertheless has tender spirit to share.