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  • By Roger Stoll
    May 26, 2015
    Review of: TO GET OUR BEARINGS IN THIS WHEELING WORLD, by Buff Whitman-Bradley. (Sycamore Books, 2015, 105 pp.) I love this poet’s work and treasure the previous collections of his that I own: Realpolitik, Everything Wakes Up!, When Compasses Grow Old, and The Next Small Thing. This new book has the wit, imagination and effortless grace of the others, but it is misted with melancholy: an elder’s look back with gratitude for life and his sober, unsentimental peep at coming death. And it’s poetry that delights, moves, entertains and stuns. “Not for the first time you arrived at the dock/Out of breath to find the berth empty…” begins a poem on something like mis-regretting — a wistful, metaphorical, secular prayer of thanks for chances missed and the gifts that came in their wake. The fear of failing memory is funnier and sweeter than I can remember in “The Job of Memory,” where the eager clerks working in the files and cubicles of memory’s working office manage, at last, perhaps for the... More > last time, to retrieve with difficulty and triumph a bit of trivia feared lost. Humpty Dumpty gets an oblong but rounded psychological treatment as a mischevious, reckless kid. The poem that begins, “I have already thrown this poem away,” is the writer’s extremely funny comment on his craft and its helpful critics, but it ends up vaguely melancholy. The poet’s bout with pneumonia is almost cheerfully memorialized in his description of his John Henry-like labors, consisting exclusively of breathing, one breath after another, for an entire day, at the end of which he pats himself on the back with the comment, “nice work.” The poems are peppered with perfect sensory evocations, like the “scrawny light” of a January late-afternoon, or the chopping of vegetables outdoors echoing “like the cry of a wooden bird.” The bitterness of an unhappy boyhood is called up obliquely but devastatingly in just five unrhymed couplets, a boyhood in which at night could be heard “the trap doors downstairs opening and closing their jaws.” This casually profound and wittily serious poet’s latest collection is perhaps richer, more polished and precise than the others, but its tone is muted (like a miles davis ballad). I am so grateful to have it in my not-yet-complete collection of Buff Whitman-Bradley’s work.< Less
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Product Details

First Edition
Sycamore Books
May 21, 2015
Perfect-bound Paperback
Interior Ink
Black & white
0.46 lbs.
Dimensions (inches)
6 wide x 9 tall
Product ID
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