Friday, January 3, 2020

Poem 366: “the weight of dandelions” by Peter J. Gloviczki

the weight of dandelions by Peter J. Gloviczki

the weight of dandelions by Peter J. Gloviczki (County Clare, Ireland: Salmon Poetry, 2019).

   in the breeze …
   the weight
   of dandelions

The title poem of Peter J. Gloviczki’s third full-length collection, The Weight of Dandelions, begins its final section, and it’s impeccable, how the dandelion feels heavy but is practically weightless, borne by the wind.

That’s the collection, in a nutshell, the title entirely apt for what goes on in these fifty-nine contemporary haiku and senryu. These slight forms travel a lot of ground in their handful of syllables, and each conveys an image with sticking power.

When reviewing haiku-length poems, the treat is being able to quote examples in their entirety. Nothing else will really do. Here’s a senryu that deals, like the title poem, with heaviness. It’s untitled, as all of the poems are, and as is typical for haiku:

   job interview …
   the weight
   of Dad’s belt

It’s a poem that represents a father’s hopes and expectations in the powerful symbol of a borrowed belt. We know so much from this poem — that the son doesn’t yet have a professional wardrobe nor a suitable belt; that the son feels awkward in his dad’s clothes; that he goes to his interview as an ill-fitting version of his old man; that he feels the burden of needing to live up to his father’s example. That’s a lot of work for seven words to do, but there you go.

I also like some of the more straightforward, imagistic pieces, like this one from the first section:

   back home …
   digging the key
   out of the plant

There’s more here than what’s on the surface (like the idea of home as a place where we put in roots), but I’m captivated by the poem at face value — the image so vivid and familiar. (I wonder if Gloviczki really keeps his key in a potted plant? If so, after the publication of The Weight of Dandelions, he probably needs to buy a fake rock like the rest of us.)

Most, if not all, of the poems begin with a place-finding gesture. The poet establishes a setting in which to position an image or an action. Some examples of first lines: “five-thirty …,” “rummage sale …,” “at the nightclub …,” “December snowstorm ….” One would think think this would feel repetitive, but we don’t really mind the presence of a stage when we go to a play, and a reader of this collection doesn’t particularly notice or mind a small set of words to serve as a launching pad for the poem.

I’ll conclude by presenting my very favorite poem in the collection. Here it is:

   I ask a stranger
   for directions

This is another pendulous raindrop of a poem, with a lot held inside its meniscus. I had a strong personal reaction to this one, since it spells out better than I’ve ever been able to how foreign I feel when I go back to my hometown. On the one hand, I have the magic glasses time provides — I can see through every street and building to its version from forty years ago, yet I’m not always quite sure how to get from here to there. I ask the stranger for directions, yes, but in reality, I am the stranger, and I can never be anything else in that place — not now, not anymore. I admire the absolute accuracy of this poem, which ends the book.

By the way, the poet himself was once kind enough to set me straight about contemporary American haiku. Serious practitioners tend to reject the 5-7-5 syllable count we all learned in grade school as they try to go deeper and be even more spare. A haiku doesn’t have to be three lines; some of the ones in this collection aren’t, and why should they be?

A haiku does tend to address nature and the passage of time or the seasons, but a poem with the same shape but a different aim, the senryu, deals with human nature. This collection has both, intermingled, and they work so beautifully together. While a low word-count means it doesn’t take a lot of time to read this collection, I suspect readers will want to linger, as I did.

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