Poet Philip Gaber builds a collection of poems that cover a span of human emotions, from despair to anger, grace, hope, and often painful self-reflection.
This collection of poems builds its momentum in the concrete world, one filled with hospital rooms, canned food, cigarettes, old films and Holiday Inns. Gaber reaches for the real and the undressed inside of conversations, portraits, and even seemingly poignant moments that offer glimmers of grace and humorous humility. The poem that begins the collection describe an aging woman speaking critical of herself: “my lips have become a joke... my eyebrows, exaggerated.” The poet expresses a universal longing that could be attributable to any aging soul looking back over her life wondering what it all means, what kind of identity she has to cling to, and, finally, the embracing of fate. This poem exemplifies the motif that will carry on throughout the poems in the collection. Like many poets, Gaber chooses to highlight specific moments – drives through the night, phone calls with girlfriends or family members, and visits to the dying – to convey a universal truth about loneliness, grief, and sometimes a self-deprecation that is tinted with humor but borders on disgust. In the poem “a rough full-contact love,” the speaker notes, “I always seem to be on the verge of / something terrific like becoming employed again.” He moves between these concrete and blunt verses to lines that open the poem into a more abstract space, such as “I always seem to be thinking up new ways of kissing,” which convey a deeper dissatisfaction or restlessness with mundane domestic life. Gaber's portraits are often funny. In one poem, “she suffers well,” he commits, “Over a plate of beans and onions / she confessed to having a / pool-hall education.” Though sometimes the line breaks are undecipherable and seemingly haphazard, the concrete world grounds these poems in the five senses and gives the reader a visual and aural experience as much as one of human emotion and pensive thought.
Overall, a striking collection of portraits, human interactions, and incidents that draw the magnificent quirks of life from mundane daily practice.