Watsky (Telling the Difference, 2010, etc.) does the work of 10 poets in this excellent, slim collection.
An avid baseball fan, Watsky writes gorgeously of his passion for America’s pastime. To borrow a term from the sport, he’s a utility player. Watsky handles multiple positions with equal dexterity and skill. In fact, there’s not much he can’t do. Verse about Jungian archetypes? He’s got it: “Yes!! shouts Shadow, straight to hell! / Be nice, admonishes Persona. / Partially disrobed, Anima at the mirror peekaboos her hair / first across one breast then the other.” (Watsky is a trained clinical psychologist.) Verse about the Japanese poet Santoka? That’s here too: “Sake / his favorite koan got him / into trouble and then got / him out before the bent / nail of his personality / was pounded / flat.” How about a poem, out by out, of San Francisco Giant Matt Cain’s perfect game? “June 13, 2012, a Wednesday night against / the Astros, we’re down for one of Matt’s trade- / mark gems, especially Houston being nearly / impotent on the road—not that we’re entitled / to point fingers.” And it’s all good. Though he can ably write in a variety of forms, Watsky’s favorite weapon is a sort of prose poem divided cunningly into sharp, nonrhyming couplets. One particularly effective example is “Squaw Valley Pan Shot”: “white pine that nips / the heels of retreating / glaciers a mere ten / millennia ago this summer. God / knows, my timing / can be rotten but I haven’t bought any / ski areas lately.” In this form, the line breaks do the work; “God” is left out on a limb, separated from the knowing he will eventually do. Thus does an approachable meditation on a winter landscape become subtle, incisive theology. As if Watsky didn’t already have enough on his plate.
Refreshing poetry that has a little something for everybody.