SWEETIEBETTER by Terry Minchow-Proffitt


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Minchow-Proffitt (Chicken Train, 2016, etc.) shuttles deftly between the particular and the universal in this accomplished third volume of verse.

A poet’s trustiest tool is his or her willingness to look—to see details that the rest of us miss and then pin them down with words. Minchow-Proffitt has a particularly keen eye for such details; in this collection, he’s alive to the soft growl of a toddler doing his best tiger impression (“Holding My Own”) or the plaintive tone of a cashier’s laugh (“Valentine’s Day”). But the author’s skill is not merely to point out these small touches, but to make them fulcrums on which entire poems might balance and spin. Readers see one such point in the fine poem “Signs,” in which the meaning revolves around a single letter “S.” The piece lists phrases on church signs along a highway near the speaker’s home: “One church brags: / Our lifeguard walks on water. / Another up the road advises: / To be lifted up / go down / on your knees […] Then, at the church / just past Bull’s Eye Sports and Shooting Range— / God still storms.” As the speaker drives on, he sees, from a distance, a man at a flea market strike a young girl, and he pulls over to gather himself before continuing. The next morning, a young pastor returns to that last sign with an “early edit: / God stills storms.” So much rests on that added letter—not least of which is God’s role in the world and the ways in which human responsibilities hinge on it. Minchow-Proffitt is a retired pastor, so many of his poems address such spiritual themes, but his tone usually resembles that of “Signs”: inquisitive, humble, delicate. If God storms, then the poet speaks in more hushed tones. Although he’s still actively involved in ministry, his retirement gives him more time to write, and readers are all the better for it. Illustrator Proffitt-Allee’s (Flashbulb Danger, 2018) understated but elegant black-and-white line drawings develop or enhance the poet’s themes. These accents are subtle, but they round out the collection in surprisingly effective ways.

Finely wrought poetry on both mundane and divine subjects.

Pub Date: May 10th, 2019
ISBN: 978-1-73359-793-7
Page count: 114pp
Publisher: Middle Island Press
Program: Kirkus Indie
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1st, 2019