A debut collection of short poems focuses on Texas and the environment.
Many of the pieces in this volume feature Crawford’s Houston, lingering on its weather. The intense humidity or a view of icy trees might lead a few stanzas until the associations build outward. Stock market realities manifest in “A Short History of Our Recovery,” for example, where the television, rather than a weather vane, forecasts a stabilizing net worth for the speaker and the country. Extreme drought, in a poem called “Dog Days,” shows the explosion of greenery, the roadside kudzu “fecund as maniacs’ dreams.” In August, the humidity seems to exacerbate everything; billboards feature hot night life, and even the nighttime skies are colored with “radioactive hues.” The book shows a keen interest in larger climatological issues, referencing humanity’s dangerous carbon footprint and including an elegy for the workers horribly burned at an oil refinery in 1999. To be in Texas places one in the midst of energy controversy, and it also offers a forceful metaphor for writing in a diminished world. In “Texas Ars Poetica,” the speaker admits that he is “no Spindletop, no drill bit biting / deeply,” yet he describes the productive skimming of what’s left after the fracking of soft stone. A handful of rewritten myths add gravity. An especially fresh glimpse of the Minotaur and Icarus appears early in the book, and an updated, hip tone structures “Cain’s Complaint,” holding up anger as damning but inevitable. Anger, however, is something one can travel through, the poet tells readers, in their mortal lives, and the later poems achieve a lighter state akin to floating. Whether it be the literal version of snorkeling over a reef or the electric, irresistible pull of desire, to float is to continue and to arrive somewhere close to happiness. Tributes to many poets—Dante, Elizabeth Bishop, Gertrude Stein, and more—show a range of influence and admiration, though Crawford’s own words do the real work. This collection bears out the promise of its title with buoyant, accomplished lyrics.
A thoughtful, far-ranging volume that reveals poetry’s powerful associations.