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THE LEDGE by Michael Collier


by Michael Collier

Pub Date: April 27th, 2000
ISBN: 0-618-05014-0
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

A welcome new collection from a poet of distinction. Collier (The Neighbor; The Folded Heart) teaches at the University of Maryland and is director of the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference. He has won Guggenheim and NEA fellowships, as well as a Discovery/The Nation Award. These layered and textured poems are rendered with the kind of craftsmanship one might expect from a master woodworker or potter but finds all too seldom in poetry these days. The ledge alluded to in the book’s title is from ``Brave Sparrow,'' a poem that is important to the book’s overall meaning: ``Whose home is in the straw / and baling twine threaded / in the slots of a roof vent / who guards a tiny ledge / against the starlings / that cruise the neighborhood. . . .'' For all its vulnerability, the sparrow embodies the courage it takes to live in a precarious world, a metaphor still apt for the creative life, though by no means limited to that. Collier’s line endings manage to be both crisp and sinewy, pulling the reader on through the twists and turns of a poem with many surprises along the way: ``If you think Odysseus too strong and brave to cry, / that the godloved, godprotected hero / when he returned to Ithaka disguised, / intent to check up on his wife / and candidly apprize the condition of his kingdom, / steeled himself resolutely against surprise / and came into his land coldhearted, cleareyed, / ready for revenge—then you read Homer as I did, / too fast. . . .''

Whether writing about the natural creatures of the world or about myth and personal history, Collier offers delight for both ear and mind.