Saturday poetry pick: House of Water

book cover

It’s been a while since I posted a Saturday poetry pick, but Matthew Nienow’s collection House of Water sings in a way I want to share.

Immediately I was struck and stunned by the music, as in “Ode to the Belt Sander & This Cocobolo Sapwood”:

“The belt kicks on with a whir & the whir
licks the end grain of the offcut with a hint

of ?hesitation.”

and the poem later continues

“A single knot blinks
out of the small block and becomes

the eye of a hummingbird, its beak
bending around the edge of the wood,”

Or in “Ode to the Gain”:

“There’s the paring chisel’s purpose
in the steamed cedar strake, its long warp

laid strong against the bench,
whose pocked surface is the book

of what has already been made,
or marred in learning’s wake —”

There are the kicks and licks, hint and hesitation, blinks and block and beak bending, and steamed cedar strake, long warp laid strong. The sounds fill my mouth, the stresses slow me down, and yet there is a lot of movement happening—the steady methodical movement of work.

If the odes have some of the most lyrical moments, their reflection appears in other poems, especially “From the Middle of It”—a long meditation that reckons with the small moments, their gifts we’re losing all the time.

This is a book of wood and water and family and hammers. And because my husband is also a woodworker, it gave me more glimpses into his world–not just the stories of it, but the experience, as in “End Grain”:

“the most

vulnerable door
of what makes

the holiest of
things.”

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