Well now, here's a man after my own heart. At times, in this terrific collection of poems, Paul Guest seems to be channeling my very thoughts, or at least their velocity. After hanging out with a bunch of poets at the Colgate conference, I came home with a verse jones, and found myself with Rhian last week at the Strand in New York, where, while wearing pants one size too small (don't ask) vowed not to leave the poetry aisle until I'd found at least two excellent new books by people I'd never heard of.
I didn't quite make it--this is the only one I found. (I bought another, but it was by somebody I'd heard of.) These poems are earnest and manic and a little bit inscrutable, which is precisely what I like. Sometimes they remind me of Dean Young; they mostly remind me of Ed Skoog. And at their extremes they evoke the recent John Ashbery, who has been a bedside companion for weeks.
The title poem, which stands at the book's center like a drain, is a stone cold classic that I will be xeroxing and mailing to people for years to come. It's one of those crazy tours-de-force that fixes the deeply personal into a firmament of wild American randomness, like Whitman (note: one letter away from hit man) or Ginsburg. It's funny and painful. You get "sweet, sweet Crisco / coursing the byways of my broken heart," a boldly corny riff if I ever read one. Or "Strangers who stopped me in the street / or paid for my lunch / or wept over their dead son / or asked how many miles / in my wheelchair I could go. / The twenty-five miles in five hours / that would take me nowhere / except the car plant or pet food factory / the wind at night / would bring to everyone."
Man, I love that. Guest has a couple other collections and a recent memoir, check him out.