I love subtle rhymes, slant or full–the rhymes that don’t announce themselves, the poems that lead you through almost to the end before you discover you’ve been reading rhymes, and then you have the pleasure of going back, matching up those rhymes.

Floyd Skloot deftly uses rhyme this way, and I’ve long been a fan. His book Close Reading, from Eyewear Publishing,  offers many such finely crafted poems, and some that seem to slip in and out of rhyme, as well as those that don’t rhyme but have a resonance and pace as if they did rhyme.

Thematically, there’s a lot going on–poems about Cezanne, Paul Klee, Jules Verne, a heartbreaking poem about Pachelbel (“His children hear / him leave, but he feels this is good / practice for them all.”). Then poems about his brother and growing up. Poems exploring Skloot’s struggle with vertigo, and the poem ends with a villanelle, “Closing in July,” that begins

We planned to live here at least fifteen years
buying this house to grow old in,
which didn’t take as long as we thought.

For a sneak peek at Close Reading, see “Vincent Van Gogh, Self Portrait.”

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I’m a process geek–and part of that involves structure. I love looking at the structure of poems and the structure of books, and The World’s Tallest Disaster, by Cate Marvin, gave me plenty to enjoy.In the book, the first poem is “Dear Reader,” the first poem of the second section is “Dear Petrarch,” and the final poem is “The Readership.”

The imagery is volatile–but then there’s the way Ms. Marvin weaves different voices in the poems, and the way she uses repetition in the poems. Some of my favorites were “Cry Heard, Far Off,” “Cigarillo,” and “Dear Petrarch.” Enjoy.

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I realize I haven’t been blogging much at all since the end of Poetry Month. But this past week I’ve been reading.

And what a week it’s been–a perfect marriage of image and intellect. I’ve been reading Anne Carson’s Plainwater. This collection also pairs poetry and essay–with the essays sometimes bordering on prose poems, or a diary, or a meditation. For me, not knowing exactly what I’m reading, not being able to box it into a known form, is part of the delicious pleasure.

The book is divided into five sections: Mimnermos: The Brainsex paintings (poem fragments and essay), Short Talks (are they poems, or brief essays; does it matter?), Canicula di Anna (time and identity shifting and bending), The Life of Towns (poems, I think), and The Anthropology of Water (essays in three sections). All woven with Greek and Chinese history and Japanese poets. All studded with spare and gorgeous imagery, its recurrences.

The essays especially grabbed me. I’d think that part of their power was in their lack of trickery or contortion–and then I’d realize that their acrobatics are just that subtle. I’m reading a long and wham, there’s that badger again.

Now for a sample: Here is a link to some of the poems from The Life of Towns. For a sip of the essays, see this excerpt from The Anthropology of Water.


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I’ve been a supporter of Copper Canyon Press for several years, and every once in a while they send me something in the mail. A few years ago, it was Rabindranath Tagore’s The Lover of God. I didn’t read it right away (for whatever distracting reason), and then it was buried under a pile of other books. But when I moved into the writing studio, I put it on the books-to-read shelf.

And what a delight! I was captivated both by the imagery and the story–as well as the story of Randranath Tagore himself (which made me think of Pessoa). (I confess: I skimmed the front matter and didn’t get to the postscript. Perhaps on a second reading.)

Have you read these? Two voices speak in them–the older mentor consoling and chiding, the young lover passionate and inconsolable.

And the images! From my favorite,

“Too late for embarrassment, shy doe
nibbling at the forest’s edge,
shawled in deep blue shadows.”


“Black bees carry the moon’s luster
from flower to flower.”

You can read the whole poem on the Copper Canyon Press site.

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This week I was lucky enough to have an advance copy of Kathryn Rantala’s book In the State I’m In, from Ravenna Press. I was so excited to read this book, after enjoying some of the poems at Cascadia Review. These poems explore geographical regions in Washington State, starting West, moving Along the Columbia, and ending in the East.

The spare nature of the poems gives me room and time to imagine myself in each place.

From “Okanogan”:

“signs of the familiars
the high house peaked
rubbed bright
where light gets hold of them”

From “Sun and Gorge”:

“And if on horseback knoll
or ridge or plain
or on the iron of a high butte

it draws the adorations out of you”

From “Down the Road Toward Tekoa”:

“What the guidebook says to bring off-road
may be extinguished
sometimes that is hope”s

The space around the images opens up landscapes–especially in the East section’s poems, where I can imagine the expanse and the wind blowing over the small details of stones, birds, a red car.

Reading these poems, I want to get in my red car and drive east, over the Cascades, stay on I90 past the turnoff to Yakima, be in that space. And part of me feels as though I already have.

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