Timothy Houghton, Where the Lighthouse Begins (Salmon Poetry, 2020)
Mark Belair, Taking Our Time and Running Late (Kelsay Books, 2020)
Michael Heller, Telescope (The New York Review of Books, 2019)
America’s ‘spirit of place’, as D.H. Lawrence calls it, has long been the concern of its poets. These four collections are no exception. They set out to experiment with perception and in doing so move the worlds they translate in extraordinary ways. In Where the Lighthouse Begins, Timothy Houghton makes an inventive and disorientating kaleidoscope of reality. His shuffling between the complex and simple – objects giving way to memories and vice versa – shatters quotidian life into the cosmic. A lover’s tooth-marked skin is ‘like a piece of moon’ in the speaker’s telescope and the room of a middle-school boy has ‘Saturn dangling from the ceiling’. Images bring the world inside and stretch things, making time so elastic it threatens to snap. In ‘Viking Warrior’ we meet a ‘a mobile of Viking ships’ hanging from the wall. History swings into view, ‘cobwebs connecting the hulls and sails’ as a warrior with his ‘spray of neurons’ seeks the unknown quest dangling below his fleet. Seen again in ‘Hoarding’, this time the ‘Viking ship barely moves’ among a grandmother’s ‘stuffed things’. Its presence reincarnated in cardboard proffers the speaker’s philosophical question: ‘Can sameness be richness?’ Houghton’s poems accumulate bizarrely to break habit – of which history is a part – into rich fragments, proliferating the question by constantly differing perspectives.
While his poems illuminate the ...
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