Rewak’s (The Right Taxi, 2012) latest collection showcases the work of a skilled poet near the peak of his powers.
The poet, a Jesuit priest, spent years as a university president, and readers could create a classics course by tracking down all the allusions in his exquisite verse. All the greats are here—Shakespeare, Blake, Sophocles, Wordsworth—filling and animating Rewak’s balanced lines. He also pays homage to more recent luminaries: A tribute to the late, great Ansel Adams, for example, praises the photographer’s ability to match weight with airiness: “All those mountains / with the tonnage of centuries / suddenly leap / in magic / how you’ve subverted / gravity to show us / the lightness of creation.” Rewak successfully conveys a similar tension in his own poetry. While he addresses subjects that are, by turns, serious and light, his gravitas is never ponderous, and his levity never lacks substance. On one page, he meditates on the old myth that Jesus crafted his own cross using the carpentry skills he learned from Joseph: “the home he built / stands on Golgotha / you could not know / how he would use / your gift.” Switching gears just a handful of pages later, the poet wonders at the meter an ant would use if he talked in verse: “He spoke, / at first, in accents Chaucerian—I sensed / a primordial de-bump…but then / changed to the chittering of a pious Pound.” Only a talented writer can pull off such radical shifts in topic and tone, and Rewak does it all in free verse that never devolves into the lazier cant of lesser stylists. Best of all, his poetry rewards rereading, as images that at first seem merely clever have a depth that only reveals itself the second or third time around. In a touching meditation on Psalm 46, he asks, “Forgive me, Lord, for being mundane.” A funny request, since Rewak never is.
Masterful poems from a seasoned writer.